How Is A Lawsuit Amount Determined?
In a criminal trial, if a crime has victimized someone, then the trial's goal is to find the accused guilty and often sentence them to time in jail. However, people aren't only victims of acts considered crimes. Sometimes, people can be victimized by acts of carelessness that could have otherwise been avoided. While such negligent actions causing harm both immoral and illegal, they are considered criminal.
In these situations, when victims seek to right a wrong, the goal is not to punish the guilty with a jail sentence but to make them pay for what they've done. Civil cases mostly occur in the form of lawsuits where what is on the lines is not a jail sentence but an amount paid in compensation to victims. But how exactly is that amount figured out before being brought to trial?
No Single Equation
The amounts sought for compensation in a civil lawsuit are typically referred to as damage or damages. However, unlike computer science or physics, there is no fixed set of algorithms or equations that can precisely calculate how much money will be submitted for a lawsuit. For example, just because two different car accidents with no deaths go to court for negligence, that doesn't mean they will both have the same amounts involved for total damages.
As with people, individual lawsuits will have different factors and considerations that will determine specific amounts. The circumstances and the medical costs can act as a baseline for some fixed, predictable costs. Still, other factors go beyond the calculator when it comes to figuring out a final amount.
The Concrete Costs Of Medical Treatment
If injuries are present in a lawsuit, then there is one component of the damages that can be reliably, accurately figured out every time. That is related medical expenses. Nothing is free, and in America, the cost of medical treatment can be astronomical depending on the type of treatment required and medication needed. With a civil lawsuit, there are three main components to figuring out total damages, and medical expenses are easily calculated.
This is where a lawsuit can do a deep dive into exact costs. Everything is known for medical treatment, such as the cost of treatment itself, medication cost, post-recovery, physiotherapy, or anything else that might be required for an accident victim to recover.
The Missing Salary
Most adult Americans who are injured will often be employed somewhere. Of course, if an injury is sufficiently severe, such as broken limbs, or a concussion, this will mean the accident victim is unable to work. Another aspect of damages is the financial hardship an accident victim faces due to being unable to work and earn a salary. In most cases, this will be straightforward. Whatever lost time an accident victim experiences from work due to medical treatment will be included as part of the damages.
There are, however, situations where this can become extremely complex. What happens if, for example, someone is a carpenter, or even an artist or musician and loses the use of hands? Now the former line of work is no longer possible, so there is a new situation to consider where the victim must retrain in a new occupation to resume a normal life. Damages must take this into account if an injury robs the victim of the ability to return to the previous life.
Pain & Suffering
This is perhaps the most abstract portion of calculating damages. At the same time, it can sometimes exact the most significant amounts when lawsuit figures are determined. Pain and suffering do not operate on any exact metrics, and different situations call for different approaches. Someone who used to love motorcycles as a recreational activity, for example, who no longer enjoys them or is even afraid of them after an accident, would require one amount for pain and suffering.
On the other hand, a family that loses a young child in an accident suffers a very different form of pain and suffering, in addition to never seeing a child grow up, get a job, become a productive member of American society and start their own family. How pain and suffering are weighed will be distinct to every situation.
This is why anyone who has been injured by someone else's negligence, working with experienced personal injury lawyers is crucial. Just looking at free legal websites and applying a generic "damages calculator" to your own situation does not mean you now have an accurate assessment of how much your case will be worth if you decide to represent yourself. Your best course of action is to discuss what's happened to you and your family or friends with an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the process of determining precisely what you've lost and how a dollar value can be attached to that.