As plaintiffs’ attorneys, we at Curcio Law help people that have been injured due to no fault of their own become whole again. Most people have heard of “pain and suffering” before, but what does that really mean? The magical question that almost every person involved in a personal injury case wants to know is: “how much is my case worth?”
Experienced personal injury lawyers will answer: “it depends.” As you will see, “it depends” is the correct answer because there are several elements of damages that need to be considered when gauging what a case is worth.
The laudable purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is to make the injured person whole. As it is impossible to wind back the hands of time and undo the careless behavior which caused the injury, the only way our system can make a person whole is with an award of money. Virginia Model Jury Civil Instruction No. 9.000 details the specific elements of damages in a personal injury case and states the jury is to fully and fairly compensate a plaintiff for the damages sustained due to another party’s negligence. These elements of damages are essential to evaluating how much a case is worth. Below is a list of the elements of damages and what each element entails.
1. Any bodily injuries sustained and their effect on his/her health according to their degree and probable duration.
In short, the first element compensates the plaintiff for the physical injuries that they have suffered, the severity of those injuries, and the duration of the symptoms related to the injuries. In a case where the plaintiff suffered permanent injuries, Virginia Code § 8.01-419 contains a table of life expectancy that a jury can use to determine the number of years the plaintiff will live with the consequences of his/her permanent injuries.
2. Any physical pain and mental anguish suffered in the past, and any that may be reasonably expected to suffer in the future.
This element encompasses both physical pain and mental anguish. That is an important distinction as they are not the same thing. Physical pain is the physical feeling of a body part hurting, whereas mental anguish is a natural stress and mental reaction caused by that injury. For example, let’s say there is a plaintiff with a broken leg. The hurt, discomfort, and ache that person feels when trying to walk is the physical pain they are suffering. The stress, worry, and anxiety that a person feels about being able to walk is the mental anguish they are suffering.
3. Any disfigurement or deformity and any associated humiliation or embarrassment.
This element includes any scars, discoloring, or any other type of visual result of the injuries that the plaintiff has suffered. The degree of humiliation or embarrassment associated with that visual result of the injuries depends on the location of the injury and personal factors related to the injured party. A plaintiff’s age, sex, marital status, and occupation are individual factors that go to the weight of any associated humiliation or embarrassment that a jury is to consider.
4. Any inconvenience caused in the past and any that probably will be caused in the future.
The inconvenience can be defined as the interruptions to an injured party’s daily schedule as a result of their injuries and needed treatment. In order to determine the extent of inconvenience that a plaintiff suffered, a jury will typically look at the amount of medical provider visits the plaintiff had. The type of injury is also considered when determining the extent of inconvenience. For example, a plaintiff unable to walk due to their injuries will suffer more inconvenience than a plaintiff unable to drive due to their injuries.
5. Any medical expenses incurred in the past and any that may be reasonably expected to occur in the future.
A plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for the full amount of their medical bills. Due to the collateral source rule, even if a plaintiff has health insurance and does not pay the full amount of their medical bills out of pocket, the plaintiff is still entitled to be compensated for the full amount. There are two reasons for this. First, the plaintiff pays for health insurance, and the negligent party does not benefit from the plaintiff paying for the health insurance. Second, two parties that experience the same injury and identical medical bills should be compensated the same, irrespective of if one party has health insurance and one does not.
6. Any earnings the plaintiff lost because they were unable to work at their calling.
In short, this element compensates the plaintiff for any lost wages they suffered due to their injuries and treatment. A plaintiff who uses his sick leave or paid time off to receive compensation for the time missed from work is still entitled to be compensated for that missed time for work. The reasoning is that sick leave and paid time off is a benefit that the plaintiff accrues over time, and in order to make the plaintiff whole again, they need to be compensated for that benefit that they had to use.
7. Any loss of earnings and lessening of earning capacity, or either, that the plaintiff may reasonably be expected to sustain in the future.
This element has two parts: it is intended to compensate the plaintiff for any wages expected to be lost in the future due to their injuries; it also recognizes that there are injuries which affect the amount of money a plaintiff is capable of earning in the future, such as a person who suffered a brain injury. While the injured person may be able to work, he or she is not able to perform their previous job and their measure of damages is the difference between their pre-and post-injury wages.
At Curcio Law, we are committed to helping our clients injured due to no fault of their own become whole again. Part of that process is securing compensation that fully and fairly compensates them for their damages. If you have been injured due to no fault of your own and have questions about how much your case is worth or any of the elements mentioned above, the attorneys at Curcio Law are here for you. Our team has extensive personal injury experience and can help you understand the personal injury process. Call or text us at 703-836-3366 or email email@example.com.
Rakin Hamad joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018 after graduating from George Mason Law School. During law school, Rakin demonstrated his dedication to client advocacy and was a member of the trial advocacy association, the pro bono society, and the George Mason Law Review. His approach to the law mirrors the firm’s philosophy of treating each client with commitment, compassion and character. Contact Rakin at firstname.lastname@example.org.