The damages you can recover in a personal injury case in Tennessee or Mississippi will depend on many factors. The extent of your injuries and the amount of money available, typically through an insurance policy, are two of those factors.
Here, we discuss the types of damages that typically are sought in a claim as well as how the value of each type of damages is usually determined and proven.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, you will have the right to seek compensation for all past and future medical expenses related to your injuries. These medical expenses can include the costs of:
A life care planner such as a doctor or registered nurse can review your case and determine the expenses that will go into meeting your future medical needs. If it is likely that you will need a surgery in the future, for example, you can recover the costs for that in advance.
When you are injured in an accident, your ability to earn income can be eliminated or diminished significantly. This can put a huge financial burden on not only you but your family members as well, particularly if you were the primary breadwinner for the family.
Federal assistance may be available such as Social Security disability benefits. However, receipt of those benefits does not mean that you cannot seek the recovery of income that you have lost due to your injuries and will lose in the future, including salary, bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits and any self-generated income.
While calculating lost income is a fairly straightforward process, determining diminished future earning capacity typically requires an expert’s analysis. It involves an assessment of your job skills and what you would have likely earned over the course of your working life. It also involves determining the extent of your injuries and how they prevent you from doing the work you did before.
Medical expenses and lost income are economic damages. They are not the only types of damages you can seek after you have been injured by the wrongful conduct of another. You can also pursue a recovery of non-economic damages.
Pain and suffering damages are intended to provide you with the financial compensation for the physical pain and emotional anguish you have sustained. They can also compensate you for the loss of your quality of life. For instance, if you were athletic before your injuries, but now your mobility is severely limited, it would lend weight to your claim for pain and suffering damages.
One way insurance companies try to diminish pain and suffering claims is by mining social media sites such as Facebook. An insurer may look for messages or pictures you post to contend that your pain and suffering is not as great as you assert. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid social media while your case is pending.
In 2011, Tennessee legislators passed a law capping the amount of non-economic damages that a plaintiff can recover in a civil action to $750,000 (or $1 million in the case of limb amputation, severe burns or paralysis).
A judge ruled that that law was unconstitutional in 2015. You can read a story about the decision here. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the trial judge ruled “prematurely” on the issue, according to WSMV.com. As such, the non-economic damages cap remains intact.
Punitive damages are a unique type of compensation. They are not always available in a personal injury case. This is because punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are damages that are intended to punish a defendant for acting with gross negligence or malicious intent.
Under Tennessee law, punitive damages are awarded only if a plaintiff “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently or recklessly.” Punitive damages in Tennessee cannot exceed two times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Mississippi’s law concerning punitive damages is similar. Punitive damages may not be awarded unless the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted with gross negligence, malice or “willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others.”
An attorney can help you to prove that you deserve punitive damages by gathering evidence that can help to establish the egregiousness of the conduct of the person who harmed you. For instance, a drunk driver who harmed you or a loved one may have been operating his or her vehicle with an extremely high blood alcohol concentration or may have been driving at an outrageous speed.
When you have been injured by the negligence of another, your spouse has the right to bring a separate but related claim for loss of consortium. While a personal injury claim is one that is based on the injuries to you, a loss of consortium claim is based on injuries to your spouse’s relationship to you.
The claim reflects the loss of services, caring and companionship. It also reflects the loss of normal marital relations due to the injuries your loved one has suffered.
The value of damages in a loss of consortium claim typically is left to the discretion of the jury. Because of this, it will be important that your attorney makes a convincing case that fully details the extent of harm to the marital relationship.
Attorney David E. Gordon has extensive experience with determining the value of personal injury claims for clients in Memphis and surrounding areas in Tennessee and northern Mississippi. If you or a loved one has been injured by another person’s negligence, contact us today and allow us to review the facts of your case and estimate the damages that can be sought on your behalf.