The amount you can recover in a personal injury claim depends on many factors, including the extent of physical, emotional and financial harm that you have suffered. For this reason, the amount differs from case to case.
At Strickland, Agner & Associates, our Goldsboro personal injury lawyers can carefully investigate and evaluate the amount that should be pursued in your claim. We can then get to work on seeking that amount through reaching a settlement or by taking your case to trial.
If another party’s careless or reckless conduct has harmed you, our goal will be to ensure that you are fairly and fully compensated for all of your damages. In a personal injury case in North Carolina, those damages typically fall within the following categories:
Your health is of the utmost importance. If you have been involved in an accident of any kind, you should go to the emergency room or see your doctor. After all, the neck pain or headaches you have been experiencing since your accident could be the signs of serious injuries. You won’t know unless you get checked out.
Additionally, seeing a doctor could play an important role in your case. If you wait too long to get medical attention, an insurance company may argue that your injury was not caused by your accident or that your injury is not as severe as you claim.
As the victim of another person’s negligence, you would have the right to be compensated for all medical bills that you reasonably incur and will incur in the future for the treatment of your injuries, including:
- Emergency treatment
- Diagnostic tests (X-rays, MRIs or CT scans)
- Casts, splints or braces
- Assistive devices (such as a wheelchair or walker)
- Assisted living or home health care
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Mental health counseling.
We can establish your medical expenses by presenting your doctor, hospital or prescription bills to the insurance company or to the jury deciding your case. We can also consult with experts such as life care planners who can establish the medical treatment you will need in the future.
Loss of Earnings
You should also be fairly compensated for the impact that your injuries have on your ability to earn income, including hourly wages, salary, fringe benefits and self-generated income.
You should recover earnings that you have lost up to the date of the settlement or verdict and what you will lose in the future due to your reduced earning capacity or inability to work at all.
The amount will depend on factors that include:
- Your age and occupation
- Nature and extent of your employment
- Value of your services
- Amount you were earning at the time of your injuries
- Effect of your disability or disfigurement on your earning capacity.
Your paystubs, tax documents and benefits statements are among the items of evidence that can be used to prove your earnings losses. A vocational expert or economist may also be called on to calculate your future losses.
Pain and Suffering
You have a right to compensated for the physical pain and mental suffering you experience due to another person’s negligence, including depression, anxiety and the inability to enjoy the lifestyle you had before your injuries.
Some people refer to pain and suffering as “subjective” damages. In other words, these damages largely reflect an opinion. It is important to gather and present evidence that can be used to form this opinion, including:
- Photos showing the severity of your injuries
- Medical records demonstrating the treatment you have required (which may be a source of pain and suffering)
- Videos showing the life you led before your accident
- An assessment of your mental health.
For instance, an award for pain and suffering may be supported by evidence showing that you regularly exercised or enjoyed certain hobbies like golfing, hunting, sewing or dancing that you can no longer participate in due to your injuries.
Scarring or Disfigurement
Many personal injury victims suffer significant scarring and disfigurement. It may be directly caused by an accident, or it may result from a medical procedure that is needed to treat your injuries. For instance, a scar may be left from a surgery, or a badly burned limb may need to be amputated to save a victim’s life.
Under North Carolina law, you are allowed to recover for this harm. Factors that go into the amount sought include:
- The extent to which your physical appearance has been altered
- Embarrassment and mental suffering you have experienced.
Keep in mind: You cannot recover twice for the same element of damages. So, if scarring and disfigurement is included in the calculation of your pain and suffering or lost earnings damages, you cannot seek these damages separately.
Loss of Use of a Body Part
An accident may cause a person to suffer the total or partial loss of use of one or more body parts. For instance, spinal cord damage may result in paraplegia (loss of feeling and function in the legs) or tetraplegia (loss of feeling and use of the arms and legs). A fracture that fails to heal properly, severe burns or soft tissue damage may also cause the loss of use of a body part.
You can recover for this damage, with the amount depending on the:
- Extent of your disability or handicap
- Amount of inconvenience or hardship you suffer.
This harm may be factored into your recovery of damages for lost earnings, scarring or disfigurement and pain and suffering. If so, you cannot separately seek these damages.
Loss of Consortium
Under North Carolina law, the spouse of a personal injury victim may bring a claim for loss of consortium. These damages are aimed at compensating the spouse for the harm done to his or her relationship with the victim.
If your spouse brings a loss of consortium claim, he or she can seek a recovery for the actual loss of:
- Marital services
- Companionship or sexual relations.
For example, if you mowed the lawn or looked after your children before you were injured, a spouse can seek compensation for what it costs to hire a landscaping service or child care.
Additionally, in our state, a parent can seek a recovery for the loss of services and earnings that are caused by injury to a child. Those damages are limited to what the child would have contributed before turning age 18.
A loss of consortium claim is separate and distinct from a personal injury victim’s claim. However, in most cases, the claims are pursued at the same time due to overlapping evidence and legal issues.
Unlike the compensatory damages described above, punitive damages are not intended to make you “whole” after you have been harmed by another’s negligence. Instead, they are intended to punish the at-fault party for egregiously wrongful conduct and to deter the party and others from similar misconduct in the future.
To recover punitive damages in a personal injury claim, you must present “clear and convincing” evidence that the at-fault party’s conduct was:
- Malicious (motivated by personal ill will)
- Willful or wanton (with conscious and intentional disregard of and indifference to the rights and safety of others).
Generally, punitive damages are limited to three times the amount you recover in compensatory damages or $250,000 – whichever is greater. However, this cap does not apply if you are harmed in an accident caused by a drunk driver.
Our Goldsboro Personal Injury Lawyers Can Evaluate Your Claim
The at-fault party’s insurance company may contact you within days or even within hours after an accident occurs. The insurer may offer you a settlement. It is important to never accept such an offer until you have first allowed an attorney to review your case.
As you can see, many different types of damages may be sought in a personal injury claim. Each type of damages should be thoroughly evaluated in order to determine the proper amount that should be demanded.
At Strickland, Agner & Associates, we will seek the maximum compensation for you and your family members. We know how important your case is to you. It will be important to us, too.
We serve clients in Goldsboro and throughout North Carolina. Contact us today for your free consultation.