The damages in an injury lawsuit fall into two categories—economic damages and non-economic damages. Each of these types of damages can compensate for specific types of injury. Economic damages compensate an injured person for the specific, definable financial burdens of an accident. Non-economic damages compensate an injured person for the physical, mental, and emotional toll of the accident.
Here are some of the things you should know about economic damages available in Maryland and the ways they can be supported during a personal injury claim.
What are Damages?
Damages are derived from the legally-recognized injuries you suffer from an accident. Some of the injuries recognized under the law include:
- Bodily Damages: Physical injuries to the body, including death, can be the basis of damages.
- Mental Damages: Accidents can cause depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and other mental injuries.
- Emotional and Behavioral Changes: Physical and mental injuries can cause emotional and behavioral changes. For example, brain injuries can lead to angry or emotional outbursts.
- Financial Damages: This category of damages includes property losses or expenses you incur.
- Reputational Damages: A diminished reputation can be compensated.
Not every case will include every type of damage. An injury case, for example, might only include bodily injury and financial losses to cover a broken leg and repairs to a vehicle.
Damages fall into two categories that determine the way they are measured.
Economic damages represent the costs of injuries that can be financially quantified. In Maryland, economic damages are defined by a loss of income and any relevant medical expenses. Some examples of economic damages include:
Damages include out-of-pocket medical payments for treatment, therapy, and drugs for physical and mental injuries. If you have other ways to pay for your medical bills, such as a health plan, your health plan will probably place an insurance lien against your settlement or damages award to recover its payments.
For example, if your medical treatment costs $25,000 and your health plan covered $24,500 of the bills, you would receive the $500 you paid out of pocket. The remainder would go towards reimbursing your health plan.
Likewise, a Maryland hospital that provides medical care after your accident can have an automatic medical lien against your settlement or damages award for any unpaid services.
Future Medical Expenses
Your economic damages can also include medical expenses you will incur in the future for your injuries. For example, spinal cord injuries could require years of medical treatments and therapy. Your damages should include all of the expenses you will incur over your lifetime due to your injuries.
Economic damages cover your lost wages due to missed work. If you cannot work while you recover from your injuries, you must change jobs to accommodate your injuries, or you must reduce your hours due to your injuries, then your damages can help to compensate.
Diminished Earning Capacity
Suppose your back injury prevents you from returning to your job. When this happens, your job change specifically resulted from your injuries. If you lost money because of the job change, your damages can include that difference in pay.
If you need to install grab bars in your shower and a ramp at your front door to accommodate your injured hip, your damages can include these expenses.
An insurance company or jury can easily understand and quantify economic damages.
Non-economic damages cannot be quantified financially. These damages may include pain, suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of activities, loss of consortium, and reduction in your overall quality of life.
Insurance companies and juries find non-economic damages much more difficult to understand and quantify. Some insurance companies might dismiss non-economic damages because the injuries that cause non-economic damages cannot be seen.
Proving Economic Damages
You will prove your economic damages through documentation of your costs and losses. Some of the documents that will help prove your damages include:
Your medical records will describe the symptoms that supported your doctor’s diagnosis. They should also include your doctor’s observations that prove your injuries and their cause. Photos of your injuries could also help to support your economic damages.
The bills from your doctor, psychiatrist, physical therapist, counselor, pharmacy, and other healthcare providers will quantify your medical charges.
If you have a health plan, your insurance statements document your co-pays and deductible amounts. This will prove how much you paid out-of-pocket for your medical treatment.
The repair estimates will include a description of the damage to your vehicle and the cost to fix it. If your vehicle was totaled in a car accident, you should receive a statement from your insurer or an auto garage explaining why the vehicle is unsafe. Photos of the damage will also help you prove the repair estimates are accurate.
Your pay stubs will prove your lost wages and lost earning capacity. You may also need an opinion letter from a doctor that explains why you had to miss work or change jobs.
An injury lawyer can use these documents — along with your testimony, eyewitness testimony, and expert testimony — to arrive at a value for your economic damages.
Recovering Economic Damages
Maryland law does not cap economic damages. As a result, you can recover whatever economic damages were caused by your accident and can be supported with some form of evidence.
This places enormous pressure on insurance companies. When your personal injury lawyer negotiates with an insurance company to settle your claim, the insurance company’s incentive is to settle to avoid a lawsuit.
In a lawsuit, a jury could grant an enormous award for damages in your favor. The insurance company often prefers to settle over facing the uncertainty of a jury award.
Your personal injury lawyer will provide documentation of your economic damages to the insurance company so it has a complete picture of its exposure. This allows your attorney to negotiate a fair settlement that makes you whole and covers your future expenses.
If the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer, a lawyer can file a lawsuit to present your claim for damages to a jury.