After dealing with the immediate crisis of a personal injury accident, one of the most frequent questions accident victims have is, “How much can I receive for my injuries?” The answer is complicated and depends on several factors. Tennessee law also places limits on how much you can receive for certain types of damages. Let’s look at how these damages are calculated so you can get a better idea of what your personal injury claim may be worth.
Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case
There are several different types of damages awarded in personal injury cases, and some are easier to calculate than others. After an accident caused by another party’s negligence leaves you injured, you might be eligible for the following:
- Economic damages. Economic damages are the easiest to calculate. These include past and future medical expenses, property loss, loss of future earning capacity (how much money you could have earned if your injuries hadn’t prevented it), and out-of-pocket expenses like lost wages or childcare costs during your recovery. Generally, these are objective figures that you can document via medical bills, employer verification, doctors’ prognoses, etc. Your attorney will evaluate all these factors to determine how much your complete recovery will actually cost.
- Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are a little more intangible to calculate, but they frequently make up the bulk of personal injury claims. These include dollar amounts assigned for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium (the damage that comes from losing your spouse’s or child’s company because they have been injured), and other related damages. As with economic damages, your attorney will examine all the factors that contributed to the injury in order to determine how much to demand for these intangible losses.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are generally only awarded when the defendant in the case has acted with malice or without regard for consequences. These kinds of damages are imposed at the judge’s discretion in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious. In personal injury cases, punitive damages are most frequently awarded in product liability cases—for example, if the defendant continued to sell a defective or dangerous product that had already injured people.
Factors That May Lower Your Settlement Amount
While you may be awarded damages in all the categories listed above, there are a few factors that may actually limit the amount you can receive. These include the following:
- Tennessee statutory caps on damages. In 2011 and 2014, Tennessee legislators passed statutory caps on the amount of non-economic and punitive damages that claimants could receive. For non-economic damages, the cap is $750,000 per incident (or $1 million for catastrophic losses like amputation). For punitive damages, the cap is twice the amount of economic damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. Both caps have been challenged and even ruled unconstitutional by appeals courts, but while the cases are still in consideration, they currently remain in place.
- Comparative negligence. Tennessee is a “modified comparative negligence” state, which means you and the defendant will both be responsible for your proportional share of the damages based on a percentage of fault. For instance, if the jury determines that you were 20 percent responsible for your accident and the defendant was 80 percent responsible, the total amount of damages awarded to you would be reduced by 20 percent. (If you were found to be more than 49 percent negligent in the accident, you would receive nothing.)
If you have a solid personal injury claim and it’s been thoroughly investigated, a good attorney should be able to give you an estimate of what your settlement might look like. At that point, it becomes a matter of negotiating with the insurance company for that settlement amount—or, if necessary, litigating in court to hold the responsible parties accountable.
The lawyers at Weir & Kestner have extensive experience in determining the true value of personal injury claims like yours, and we know how to work with the insurance companies and the courts to make sure you receive the full amount to which you’re entitled. Fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation.