If you have been involved in a personal injury accident, you may be entitled to recover certain damages associated with your injuries. The following categories of damages might apply to your claim:
- Medical Bills: You are entitled to recover the health care costs associated with the treatment of your injuries caused by the accident.
- Wage Loss (loss of earnings): This category covers wage loss you experienced because of injuries sustained in the accident.
- Past pain, suffering & disability (and disfigurement, if applicable): This is meant to cover not only the physical pain you have due to your injuries, but also the worry and mental anguish you might be experiencing as a result of those physical injuries. “Disfigurement” would apply to scars or burns that can sometimes occur in accidents.
- Future pain, suffering & disability (and disfigurement, if applicable): This is meant to compensate you for the same category as past pain, suffering and disability, if your injuries are permanent in nature, and your doctor gives such an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
- Future medical treatment: again, if your physician gives an opinion that your injuries will require future treatment, you could be entitled to obtain compensation to cover such future expenses.
- Future loss of earning capacity: if your injuries are permanent, and those injuries affect your ability to earn income, this is a potential area of recovery.
- Loss of society and companionship: your spouse, parent of a minor, or child might be entitled to receive compensation if your injuries prevent you from participating fully in such a relationship.
CALCULATING YOUR DAMAGES
How the above list of potential recoverable damages is calculated will vary from case to case. Some are easier to calculate than others. For example, the claim for past medical bills is pretty straightforward: if the medical treatment is necessary because of injuries caused by the accident, a simple tally of those bills should suffice.
Wage loss claims can be also be straightforward for most hourly wage earners. Those who are salaried or are compensated on a commission basis might require the help of an accountant or a calculation based on historical earnings.
“Pain and suffering” can be difficult to determine as there is no “formula” to utilize. An experienced, reputable personal injury lawyer will utilize negotiating skills based on prior jury and/or settlement awards. Future pain and suffering awards are also partially based on the life expectancy of the injured individual, utilizing actuarial tables.
LIMITATIONS ON RECOVERY
Certain types of cases have statutory limitations on the amount an injured person can recovery. For example, awards for injuries caused by collisions with vehicles owned by governmental organizations (a city garbage truck, for example) are “capped” at $250,000 under current Wisconsin law. A claim for injuries caused by a governmental employee not vehicle related (a teacher burns a student in a shop class, for example) are limited to $50,000 per claimant under current Wisconsin law.
Your recovery can also be reduced for shared fault accidents. In a car accident, a jury compares the potential negligence of both drivers to determine responsibility.
- If you have a $10,000 car crash claim, and it is determined you are 20% responsible for the accident (called “contributory negligence”) your claim would be reduced to $8,000.
- At 50/50 you would receive 50% of the claim. If you are deemed to be 51% or greater at fault, you would recover nothing.
If you fail to wear your seat belt, and had you wore one your injuries could have been lessened or prevented, your claim could be reduced by 15% under current Wisconsin law.
There are also caps on certain categories of damages in wrongful death cases. You can learn more about those here.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
The statute of limitations in most personal injury cases in Wisconsin is three years. That means your case has to be settled, or a lawsuit filed, within three years of the date of the accident. Filing the lawsuit “tolls” or satisfies the rule. If the case involves wrongful death, the current law in Wisconsin requires the case to be settled, or a lawsuit must be filed, within two years of the date of death.
Cases involving minors (those under 18 years of age) require filing within three years, or by the claimants 20th birthday, under current Wisconsin law. So a child injured at age 12, for example, has until his or her 20th birthday to settle, or file a lawsuit.
GET HELP WITH YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM
If you’ve been involved in an accident, an experienced, reputable personal injury attorney will help you determine what you can recover for your injuries and loss as well as pain and suffering.
A strong personal injury attorney will determine what a jury would do with the value of a claim. This puts you in the best possible position for fair and full compensation, even if your claim is ultimately settled outside of court.