Personal Injury:

Determining Damages and the Value of Property

Once duty, breach, and causation have been established, the next step in a personal injury lawsuit is determining the amount of damages suffered, so that the injured party can be compensated for those damages.

Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Common personal injury damages that a person may suffer include:

  • Medical expenses (doctors fees and hospitalization costs)
  • Rehabilitation therapy (obtaining services provided by others who assist individuals in returning to the same or similar physical condition they were in prior to the negligent act or omission. This can including training for a new occupation if the injury prevents the injured party from working in his other normal trade or occupation)
  • Lost wages (wages and earnings which would have been earned by the injured party)
  • Pain and suffering (compensation for the hurt experienced because of the injury)
  • Punitive damages (punishment for reckless or irresponsible behavior, assessed in order to prevent such behavior in the future and to deter others from acting in a similar manner)

Expert witnesses may be retained to aid in determining the amount of personal injury damages suffered and to present this evidence to a jury. This is often the case in property damage valuation, which can be quite complex. If property has been destroyed so that it is no longer usable and has no salvage value, the measure of damages may be set at the fair market value of the property immediately before its loss. In most personal injury cases, an injured party may recover for loss or harm, both present and future, which is the natural, necessary, or reasonable result of the damage.

Value of Damaged Property

In the event that the damaged property can be repaired, the damages may be set at the amount of the repair costs, plus the loss of its use by the owner. However, if the cost to repair the property is greater than the fair market value of the property before its loss, damages may be limited to the fair market value. Furthermore, interest and loss of profits may be considered, in addition to the cost to repair or replace, plus loss of use.

Punitive damages in personal injury lawsuits are often determined after an inquiry reveals the wealth of the wrong-doer. For example, while punitive damages in the amount of $10,000 are typically sufficient to deter similar acts or omissions for most people, they would not be if the wrong-doer were a multi-millionaire, so the amount would be greater. However, an award of damages that results from the passion or prejudice of a jury (that is, it is not supported by the evidence and does not relate to actual damages suffered) can be set aside by a judge upon review.