The type of damages include:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Past pain and suffering
- Future pain and suffering
- Past loss of wages
- Future loss of wages
There are other kinds of damages that are available, but those are the six usual categories. Some people have one or the other, or both, or all of them, and it really just depends on the case.
If I’m permanently disabled, how do they calculate future lost earnings?
If you’re permanently disabled we stop talking about lost wages and begin talking about what is called “loss of earning capacity.” Loss of earning capacity is what you have lost in terms of your ability to work. The loss of earning capacity is what you could work if you chose to be in the workforce and work to your potential. For example, if you were currently at a job, were injured, and could no longer work, usually your loss of earning capacity is the same as your wages.
However, if you’re a stay at home parent and you used to work for a certain amount of money every year, and then you were in a car accident and lost the ability to work if you chose to, you would still have a loss of earning capacity. That’s an important part of the calculation for total damages for people because sometimes you’re in a car accident and you are unemployed or a stay-at-home parent, or maybe you had a brief illness.
It’s important to distinguish between lost wages and loss of earning capacity, and a good car accident lawyer is going to make sure that they assess your case from a loss-of-earning-capacity perspective.
Pain and Suffering Damages:
Pain and suffering is more than just the physical pain of the accident, and that’s really important to talk about. There is obviously the physical pain; that is, the hurt that you feel when you’ve gotten an injury.
Beyond that, suffering may include a wide variety of different items such as:
- the suffering that comes from having a permanent scar
- the suffering that comes from the loss of activities that you enjoyed
- something as small as missing a trip or something as large as having to give up some hobbies
Pain and suffering can also result from a brain injury where your cognitive abilities are limited.
The pain and suffering calculation includes the impact of that happening on your life.
Pain and Suffering Damages for Your Spouse
There are two important categories of spousal claims:
- The loss of society and companionship of the spouses to each other, and that claim is generally speaking what your spouse lost because you were injured, and that could be household services, the lost of what you brought to the house if you were the primary caregiver and you can’t do that anymore, you were the person who did all the outside maintenance and you don’t do that anymore as the spouse has to pick up the slack.
- The loss to the relationship, so for example in cases where there is a brain injury, the spouse is the person who has to live with that brain injury day to day and who may well have lost their life companion to the brain injury, and that has value.
There is another category of spousal payment, called a “Bowen claim,” which is unusual, but it does come up, and it is not uncommon. A Bowen claim is where the spouse has actually observed either the incident itself or the immediate aftermath; coming upon a spouse who is dying, for example, coming upon a child who has suffered a grievous injury and may be bleeding or otherwise hurt. It was named after the case that created that cause of action, and that can be extremely powerful, particularly for parents.
Bowen Claim Damages
Cases involving a Bowen Claim for pain and suffering following witnessing a traumatic accident involving a loved one can be incredibly powerful, and juries are frequently able to put themselves in the shoes of the parent or spouse who came upon this horrible situation, and so it can be something where it resonates with people.
Are There Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?
Punitive damages have been limited in Wisconsin, but they are still available under some conditions. You have to show that there was an intentional disregard for the rights of the plaintiff or that the party in dispute knew to a reasonable certainty that their actions were likely to cause harm to the plaintiff.