We sometimes hear about huge settlements in personal injury cases, but the details of these agreements are often missing from the picture. If an injury case goes to court, a jury decides on the “damages, ” a term used to describe monetary awards to be paid as compensation for loss and/or injury.
What Factors Go Into Calculating Damages?
Under standard jury instructions in Florida, juries can take the following into account in coming up with an award:
- Medical expenses – past and future: Reasonable past and future cost of hospitalization and/or treatment
- Lost earnings and/or earning capacity in the future: Any earnings and/or work time lost and/or ability to earn money in the future
- Pain and suffering: Injury, pain, disability, disfigurement, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life. Any fair and just amount which correlates to pain and suffering experienced or to be experienced
- Spouse’s loss of consortium: Any fair and adequate compensation for any loss of spouse’s services, comfort, society and attentions in the past and future due to the injury caused by the incident
- Parental damages for care and treatment of minor child: The reasonable expense of hospitalization and/or medical costs for the car and treatment for the child; any loss of earnings and/or earning ability of child as a result of child’s injury; and/or any economic loss reasonably resulting from the need to care for the child as a result of the injury
- If child’s injury resulted in permanent total disability: any loss of child’s companionship, society, love, affection, and solace by parents as the result of child’s injury
- Loss of parental consortium: If claimant’s parent faces permanent total disability, any loss of services, comfort, companionship and society of claimant’s parent as a result of injury
- Property damage: Damage to automobile and/or other property (the value of the property before incident minus value after incident) or the reasonable cost of repair
- Wrongful death: A surviving spouse can recover for the loss of support and services from the date of the injury, with interest, and for future loss of support and services. Children can recover for the loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance. They can also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury, with interest. Parents of a deceased minor child may recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Parents of an adult child may recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors, such as spouse or children. The personal representative may also recover on behalf of the deceased’s estate for loss of earnings and loss of prospective net accumulation of the estate which might have reasonably been expected but for the wrongful death. Medical and funeral expenses for the deceased can be recovered by the party which paid for them. If these expenses are charged against the estate, then the personal representative may recover them on the behalf of the estate.
There is no one standard for how to calculate these damages. A jury will typically make a determination based on what is reasonable and based on the evidence.
If the injury or death was the result of intentional, reckless or grossly negligent act, the jury might impose punitive damages. These are intended to punish the wrongdoer, and prevent future similar conduct. Punitive damages are not available in “mere negligence” cases, and are currently capped by law at three times compensatory damages. It is unusual to be awarded punitive damages unless such intentional, reckless or grossly negligent behavior can be proven
Statute of Limitations for Injury Claims
There is a time limit imposed by law on how long you have to bring suit against the party who caused your injury. This is known as the Statute of Limitations. Florida’s statutes of limitation are set out in Chapter 95 of the Florida Statutes.
For negligence claims in Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file against a private party and three years to file against a city, county, or state government. Usually, once this time has passed, you can no longer bring a claim for that injury, although there are some extensions whereby the window of opportunity can be extended by agreement or by a judge, often when an injury is discovered outside of this window. An attorney experienced in the particular area of law will be able to guide you in this matter.
Seek Experienced Counsel
It may be extremely difficult to think about a lawsuit when you are in the throes of such an emotionally trying situation, but you should not wait to take action. If you or a family member has been injured in an accident, and you think you may have a claim for damages, you should contact an attorney experienced in these types of cases. The statute of limitations is four years for these claims, so you should not delay. Compassionate, experienced attorneys will help you obtain justice for the wrongful acts which resulted in your loved one’s untimely death.