What are Economic Damages?
In terms of the compensation injury victims may be able to recover following an accident event, damages tend to be divided into so-called “economic” and “non-economic” categories. In certain cases, punitive damages may be available, though this is not a typical scenario for most injury claimants. Broadly speaking, economic damages are designed to reimburse victims for actual, calculable financial losses stemming from the events in question, and may include payment for things such as medical bills, auto repair costs, lost wages, reduction in future earning potential and expenses related to household and other services the victim can no longer perform due to injuries. By contrast, non-economic damages are less concrete and routinely encompass compensation for pain, suffering, emotional strain, exacerbation of existing injuries, disfigurement, humiliation and the like.
Medical Bills and Similar Expenses
As a general proposition, should an injury victim require medical testing, treatment or care of any kind, including hospitalization, nursing home stays or rehabilitation services, defendants will need to pay for those costs. Expenses can begin to mount quickly, particularly in cases involving severe injuries and/or permanent disability requiring lifetime care and adaptive assistance. All of a plaintiff’s expenses of this type must be compensated, as should projected future costs of care expected to be incurred.
It should be noted that plaintiffs who prevail and obtain payment of these types of expenses may be required to pay some or all such funds to their own health insurance carrier if that entity has borne the costs of care up until the point a settlement or verdict is achieved. A medical lien may even be placed on the anticipated value of an injury victim’s monetary award to make certain that costs already paid will be reimbursed.
Another key category of economic damages often awarded in injury cases is that of lost wages. Such amounts include payment for work hours missed by a plaintiff because of the harm sustained in the accident event at issue. Payment must also be made in the event an injured party used sick or vacation time to avoid losing pay while recovering or seeking medical treatment. Wage data, pay stubs and other employment records can be used as evidence of a plaintiff’s actual losses in this realm. Lost benefits and opportunities for promotion missed during the relevant period may also be considered in this calculation.
Reduced Earning Capacity
Also falling under the umbrella of employment-related losses is the category of reductions in future earning capacity stemming from the injuries sustained. Due to the severity of harm resulting from a particular event, it may be difficult or even impossible for a victim to return to their previous line of work or to earn a rate of pay comparable to pre-injury levels. Therefore, it is often possible for plaintiffs to be awarded an amount designed to compensate them for lost future earning capacity which takes into consideration their educational and employment background, lifespan information, career trajectory and other key factors. The testimony of an economic loss analyst will prove essential in placing an accurate dollar value on lost future opportunities and income.
Role of Expert Testimony in Establishing Economic Damages
An economic loss expert or a forensic accountant traditionally plays a key role in establishing the true amount of financial harm done to victims so that an appropriate damage award may be fashioned in settlement talks or formal litigation. Among the factors he or she will examine include things such as the degree of injury sustained and the projected recovery period, assessment of the victim’s chances of partial or total rehabilitation and the amount of income lost if only a partial or limited return to work is possible. Loss of promotion or advancement possibilities, lost retirement, life and health insurance benefits may also be considered in arriving at a total damage award within this realm.
Approaches to Quantifying Economic Damages
Economic loss professionals may employ a number of different techniques when it comes to quantifying the economic losses suffered due to an accident. First, the expert will attempt to isolate the true impact of the negligent acts or omissions in question. This simply means that he or she will assess the difference between the plaintiff’s economic position if the incident never occurred and the plaintiffs actual financial circumstances. Complex decisions about whether losses will be measured in the context of potential future inflation and whether they will be determined in pre-tax or post-tax dollars will also need to be made on a case-by-case basis.
Prospective Limitations on Available Damages
It must be observed that the ability of plaintiffs to recover economic damages in cases is not unlimited. In fact, the law has imposed some significant limitations on what may be awarded, in that a plaintiff is required to prove all damages with a reasonable degree of certainty, plaintiffs are not permitted to recover damages that are deemed to remote or speculative and plaintiffs are required to mitigate damages wherever possible. As a result, valuation of economic losses in injury matters is rarely as simple as it may initially appear, and the help of a skilled personal injury attorney and seasoned forensic accountants and loss experts are almost always critical to success.
Pursuing Maximum Economic Damage Payments for the Injured in Colorado
Denver injury attorney Jeremy Rosenthal’s practice is characterized by an aggressive dedication to securing the full amount of compensation to which each client is entitled. To that end, the assistance of economic loss analysts, medical experts and other authoritative witnesses is an integral part of our firm’s approach to legal representation.
If mounting monetary losses stemming from your accidental injury have left your family at the brink of financial ruin, the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal stands prepared to fight on your behalf. There is no time to lose in terms of valuing your claim and marshaling the evidence necessary support it. To begin the process of pursuing justice and securing the resources you deserve, contact us at 303.825.2223.