One of the questions most people injured in a motor vehicle collision ask is “what is the compensation that I am entitled to?” The main purpose of a damage award from the courts in such claims is to put an injured person in the same position they would have been in, had the injury not occurred. While this is a fairly straightforward concept, it is not always simple to apply in practice. Calculating such compensation is not an exact science. Instead, it varies based on a number of factors, including the injured person’s age, the severity and duration of the injuries, and their pre-accident lifestyle and employment situation. The courts attempt to clarify the process by quantifying different aspects of the losses that an individual has suffered separately, and then adding them up for a final award. While by no means an exhaustive list, the following are the main areas or “heads” of damages that an injured person may be entitled to:
Also referred to as ‘pain and suffering’ damages, these are meant to provide an injured person with compensation for aspects of their injuries that are difficult to quantify monetarily, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. While money is a poor substitute for pain and suffering, and it is difficult to quantify such awards, the courts do their best to assess the compensation individuals are entitled to under this head based on the severity and duration of their injuries, and the effect they have had on an injured person’s life. While the severity of an injury is an important consideration for such awards, it is important to remember that the main focus of this inquiry is the effect the injury has had on an individual’s life. Thus, two individuals suffering the same injury may be entitled to very different awards depending on factors such as their age, lifestyle before the injury, and the impact the injury has had on their day-to-day lives. For instance, an individual who led an active lifestyle before the injury, playing a great deal of sports and the like, and is no longer able to do so because of the injury, may be entitled to a higher award than another individual who suffered the same injury but led a more sedentary lifestyle.
Wage Loss and Loss of Earning Capacity.
An injured person is entitled to be compensated for income they have lost as a result of injuries suffered in the collision, such as time missed off work. Additionally, they are entitled to be compensated if their injuries will affect their ability to earn income in the future. In the case of past income loss, this amount can sometimes be calculated based on employment and other records showing time missed from work. Loss of future income and earning capacity is more difficult to quantify, as the court is called upon to make an assessment of what the person would have earned had the injury not occurred, taking into account their age, educational level, previous employment experience and the severity of their injuries.
Cost of Future Care.
An injured person is also entitled to be compensated for the medical costs associated with coping with their injuries. In some cases these costs can include things such as the cost of chiropractic or massage therapy treatment, gym and pool passes, or medical equipment such as special ergonomic chairs and exercise equipment. In severe cases, they may require access to specialized equipment such as wheelchairs, bed lifts and round-the-clock nursing care. As may be evident from the above discussion, the amount of these awards can vary widely depending on the severity of an injury and the costs associated with it.
In addition to the above, individuals injured in a collision are entitled to be reimbursed for all out of pocket costs they were required to incur as a result of the accident from the date of the collision to the date of trial. These include the cost of medical therapy sessions, travel costs for getting to these sessions, and any other costs that were caused by their injuries.
While the above provides a general overview of the major categories of damages injured people may be entitled to, quantifying the compensation an injured person is entitled to requires an individualized assessment depending on the specific circumstances of each case. For an assessment of the compensation you may be entitled to as a result of your injury, please contact us for a free consultation.