There are many different types of damages available to victims in a personal injury case. The standard damages include all associated out-of-pocket medical costs, including future medical costs. They also include compensation for your lack of enjoyment of life, your mental anguish, and your pain and suffering up to the point of the settlement, as well as all associated pain and suffering in the future.
When Might Punitive Damages Be Awarded In A Personal Injury Settlement In Florida?
In Florida, putative damages are very rarely awarded in personal injury cases. This is primarily because of insurance companies and debt collection laws in Florida. Insurance companies usually do not cover putative damages. Therefore, it would be incumbent on the at-fault individual to pay those damages out of pocket, which very few people can actually afford to do. In Florida, you have very little recourse if someone owes you money individually. You cannot take their house, or get their essential assets, and usually you cannot even garnish their wages.
I would probably only seek putative damages in a personal injury case in Florida if a large corporation was the at-fault party, and their actions were particularly outrageous. Even then, I would only proceed if we had airtight proof–the sort of proof that one would need in a criminal case for murder.
Does Every Type Of Personal Injury Case Ensure The Injured Party Will Receive Financial Recovery For Each Type Of Damage That You Mentioned?
There is never a guarantee that a person will recover anything at all in a personal injury case. Instead of using a term like “ensure”, we use the word “exposure”: i.e., does the responsible party have exposure to having to pay certain damages.
Whether or not someone actually ends up paying those damages is ultimately up to a jury. The jury ultimately decides whether or not the injured party was comparatively negligent, and also decides the amount that is rewarded for each particular type of damage.
In Florida, if the person seeking damages is seen by a jury to be 50% at fault, then the damages are ultimately reduced after a jury verdict into a judgment by 50%. This same amount is taken into consideration by the insurance company that insures the responsible party, in order for them to offer what they feel is an adequate settlement. They usually offer anywhere from 10% to at best 50% of damages that usually a jury will award. So, even the amount that a jury does award may be less than the actual amount that a person gets for damages.
All we can do is go on past experience to advise the client whether or not to go to jury trial. We also tell them that we have no crystal ball and we have no surety that a jury will do this time what it has done in the past.
How Do We Calculate The Cost For Future Treatment Or Needs When It Isn’t Clear What Those Needs Might Be?
Your needs must be very clear, or you should not present them. In any personal injury case, the doctor who treated you will be asked what your prognosis is, as well as what he or she believes your future treatment needs might be. For instance, they could say, “It is my opinion that the patient will probably need this specific sort of treatment and this type of operation,” and then give the cost of those treatments and operations based upon their present billings. This is one of the main ways that future treatment needs and costs are calculated.
Is There A Certain Number Of Years Into The Future That Are Considered When Calculating The Value Of A Personal Injury Claim And Potential Cost?
Yes. This is primarily done by mortality tables. These tables are based on the US Government’s statistics of life expectancy, and tell you how likely it is that a person will live a certain amount of years based on medical and demographic factors.
The life expectancy tabulated by the mortality tables is generally the number we work with to project costs into the future. If, according to those mortality tables, there is a 30-year life expectancy for the injured party, there’s no guarantee they’ll live 30 years. It’s more likely than not that they will, barring unforeseen circumstances. In reality, they may live 50 years; they may live 5 years. However, we have statistical evidence that they are more likely than not going to live 30 years.
The jury can accept or reject that evidence, but it helps our argument that there is statistical evidence backing up our claim. It forces the injured party’s attorneys to present similar evidence if they claim the person will live less than 30 years (in order to reduce the amount of damages.)
Will Damage Experts Generally Be Used At Some Point During A Personal Injury Case To Help Determine The Value Of A Settlement?
Damage experts are sometimes used to help determine the value of a settlement.
In some cases, the injured party’s doctor testifies to their injuries, prognosis, and future treatment needs. However, the insurance company will often have a doctor who is a paid witness on their behalf, who will often counter the treating doctor, claiming that the injuries aren’t actually that serious, or would have happened with or without the accident in question. One way to counter that is by bringing in a second doctor who has treated the injured party, or an expert who can themselves look at the records or examine the patient, to help back up the injured party’s first doctor and help determine the value of the case.
We always get a pre-trial report on findings from our expert witnesses, so we know what they will say before they say it in court. This helps us decide whether or not to put that expert on the stand. If we take the patient to an expert for an opinion and don’t like that opinion, we don’t have to divulge that. That is what is called “the work product,” and we are free to choose someone else that has an opinion that is more consistent with what the injured party’s doctor says.
In some ways, this turns the trial into a battle of experts. In some cases it’s doctors. In the case of liability (say, if you need to show how fast someone was going in their car), there are engineers that can testify to impact speed and force. If it’s a slip-and-fall, there are experts who can tell you how they slipped, how they fell, what they hit, and so on. There is no certainty in the outcome of an expert’s testimony, but experts are indeed utilized in order to show that certain facts are more likely than not.