Types of Personal Injury Compensation
If you are involved in a Colorado car accident, and another person was at fault for causing the accident, then you are entitled to receive compensation from them for all of your damages. Attorneys refer to compensation as damages so that we can differentiate between the different types of compensation a person may recover. Our Colorado personal injury attorneys will spend a great deal of time going over all the different types of damages with you so that your settlement compensates you for every area of your life that is affected.
Personal Injury Damages
In a Colorado car accident case, there are two different categories of damages that are available to recover in a settlement. Damages refer to the types of injuries you incurred, and this not only includes your physical injuries but also things like wage loss and medical bills. The two categories are called general damages and special damages. You may also hear general damages called economic damages, and special damages as non-economic damages. In rare cases, you may be able to get punitive damages.
- Economic damages, or general damages, are those that are easy to calculate and include your medical bills and past and future lost wages. This category also includes money if you are severely injured and have what is called a permanent impairment
- Non-economic damages, or special damages, are much more difficult to calculate because a lot of subjectivity goes into determining what a person should receive for their injuries. It is hard to say with certainty what amount of money will compensate a person for the physical pain of their injuries, as well as not being able to participate in life’s enjoyment.
What Is My Auto Accident Case Worth?
We cannot give you an accurate idea of what your Colorado car accident claim is worth without doing a full analysis. Any attorney you talk to who thinks they can give you a close idea of what your case is worth when you first meet them should probably be disbarred! It is much more of an art rather than a mathematical formula.
Stay away from calculators you may find online that claim to tell you what your case is worth. What every formula fails to take into account is the human element. You are a person, and that is the biggest variable in every case. What we can do is explain how a personal injury settlement is determined and educate you along the way so you know you are getting fully compensated for what this accident has done to you. Here are some factors that will be considered in determining what your case is worth:
- How the accident occurred.
- How serious the accident was.
- What types of injuries you suffered.
- Whether you had injuries from before the accident.
- Whether you will need medical treatment in the future.
- The amount of your medical bills.
- How much wages you lost.
- If your injuries are permanent in nature.
- How your life and family has been impacted.
Can I Get Pain and Suffering in a Minor Accident?
Whether you will be able to recover pain and suffering damages in your case will be dependent on your injuries and your accident. As a general rule though, a person is still able to recover damages even in cases where they did not suffer serious injuries. It is standard practice for insurance companies to tell innocent victims that they cannot recover any money in minor accidents. This is a complete lie. Remember that insurance companies only care about how much profit they are making!
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What Type of Damages Can I get?
Below is a list of damages that you may be able to recover for your Colorado accident claim.
- Medical Bills and Expenses
- Loss of Income
- Permanent Impairment
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Consortium
- Emotional Distress
These types of damages are easily calculated. They include things such as your medical bills, past, and future lost wages, money to pay for household services you cannot perform. While insurance companies still like to fight on economic damages you incurred, they are much easier to recover than special damages.
The medical bills that are incurred as a result of a Colorado Springs or Denver car accident are the easiest to recover in an injury case. This is because medical bills can be objectively determined and proved. There is no guesswork that goes on in determining what your medical bills are. Your auto accident attorney will have hard and fast evidence
The only time this exercise becomes difficult is when you had a preexisting injury to the same body part that was injured again or made worse by the car accident. The insurance company will argue that some of the treatment you received after this accident is related to injuries suffered in a different incident. An excellent personal injury attorney, along with the help of a medical expert, will distill the mystery involved in this process to get you what you deserve.
If your injuries from the accident are significant, you may well have the need for future medical care. So long as your doctors can adequately testify and prove that you will need this future medical treatment, an accurate amount will be calculated and included in your personal injury settlement. Never skimp on the treatment you need out of fear that the bills will not get paid. If you ever have any worries or anxiety about the pile of bills on your kitchen counter, call or send your attorney an email.
Loss of Income
If you had to miss work to recover from the injuries you sustained in the car accident, as well as the time off you had to take for doctor’s appointments, you will be able to recover the lost income you would have received. You also get reimbursed for the mileage you drive to get to your appointments, as well as any out of pocket expenses you have.
When you are injured in a car accident here in Colorado Springs or Denver, there is a good chance you are going to miss work. You should feel comfortable taking time off after the accident to recover from your injuries if you are able to financially. You can rest assured that you are able to recover your lost wages from the at-fault party. You are also able to recover the lost wages from when you have to take time off of work to go to doctor’s appointments.
Additionally, the mileage that you rack up having to drive back and forth to the doctor’s office is recoverable as well. You should write down each time you go to the doctor and how many miles you had to drive round trip. When settlement negotiations begin, your attorney will include the total number of miles you drove and multiply that by the applicable rate. The rate includes the gas you used, as well as wear and tear on your vehicle.
Future Loss of Income
If you are still treating at the time a settlement is reached, you can expect that a portion of the settlement will include future lost wages for time off of work that you will inevitably have from taking time off of work to go to appointments.
In the event that you are seriously injured, and you are unable to return to work completely or unable to work in a similar paying job, you can recover for that difference in income. This type of damage is referred to as loss of earning capacity. The negligent driver is responsible for all of the damages that they have caused you, and loss of future income can be one of the most devastating to you personally. You should not have to face bankruptcy for not being able to work and earn a living after being involved in a car accident that was not your fault.
You are considered to have a permanent impairment when your injuries will not improve with further treatment and the injury is causing you to have some sort of physical or mental limitation. Your attorney and doctors will work together to determine whether you have a permanent disability. You are entitled to receive additional compensation based on the severity of your impairment and can account for 25% of your total settlement.
If you have not completely healed from your injuries at the time your doctor places you at maximum medical improvement, then you are considered permanently impaired. You are entitled to receive additional compensation based on the degree of permanent disability you are forced to live with.
There is a real possibility that you will never fully recover after a Colorado Springs car accident, or Denver, Colorado. While you are receiving treatment from your doctors, you should make your recovery and health your number one priority in your life. While you may have a demanding job or kids running around your house screaming at the top of their lungs, the better you recover from your injuries the better you will be at fulfilling the other responsibilities you have in your life.
Once you have recovered as much as possible, your doctor will place you at what is called maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is considered to be a state where you are not expected to get worse, nor improve physically and mentally from the injuries. No amount of treatment is expected to improve your condition from this point on. This is essentially as good as you are going to get.
Hopefully, you are able to make a full recovery after the accident, but if you are not, your personal injury claim will include separate compensation considered a permanent impairment that you are entitled to receive based on the loss of function. Your doctor will determine the degree of permanent impairment based on a percentage scaled under the American Medical Association (AMA) Guide of the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
This assessment will find out whether you are permanently, partially, or not disabled at all. It will depend on the severity of your injuries and your remaining ability to perform various types of activities and work. It would not be uncommon for your attorney to get a second opinion from another doctor to back-up the impairment rating, especially when the impairment is causing you to be unable to perform the same type of work you were doing prior to the accident.
The AMA guidelines set out what is called a mortality table. A mortality table is used to determine your impairment rating and states that based on your age you are expected to live a certain number of years. The tables are different for men and women. Actuary tables are also used and are composed of statistical records. They provide information about the statistical likelihood of a particular event, such as the probability that an injury may occur or the severity of the limitations the injury will cause. All of this information will be used by your attorney and team of experts to paint a clear picture of how this permanent impairment is affecting your life in a negative way.
How Is a Permanent Impairment Rating Determined?
Your doctor will assess your condition through a physical examination to determine the severity of your permanent impairment. Depending on the facts of your case, your attorney may have you see what is called an independent medical examiner (a medical doctor). This is a neutral third party who will do a full examination and ask you a series of questions about your injuries.
The exam itself will focus on what body part(s) your injuries are affecting. If you have a shoulder injury, your doctor will perform a range of motion test to determine any limitations you have. The tests themselves will be non-invasive.
Based on the results of the tests performed and your overall physical and mental health, the doctor will use the AMA guidelines to put your impairment into a percentage number. Each injured body part will receive a separate impairment rating based on the severity of the injury. If you have permanent injuries to multiple body parts, the impairment rating for each body part will be added together to arrive at what is called a whole person impairment rating. This will vary anywhere from 0% to 100% depending on the level of permanent disability, as well as the reduction in future income-earning capacity. Your whole person impairment will account for 25% of what the insurance company is offering as a settlement, and is thus very important to the value of your claim!
This category of damages is more difficult to calculate. It includes damages such as your pain and suffering, emotional distress, the impact the car accident has on your life, permanent nature of your injuries, and mental suffering. The amount of money that fairly compensates someone for the pain for a back injury will be different for every person. Taken together, general and special damages will add up to form your total settlement. Our highly experienced attorneys will segregate out each type of damage to make sure you get every penny you deserve.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Regardless of what you love doing in life, whether it is playing with your kids, hiking, or snowboarding, loss of enjoyment of life damages compensates you for the loss you have experienced as a result of your injuries suffered in the car accident. If you were injured in the car accident to the point that you are no longer able to enjoy those activities, you will be able to recover damages to compensate you for those losses.
Loss of enjoyment of life is the negative consequences a Colorado car accident has on a person’s life in terms of the person’s lifestyle, as well as the person’s inability to participate in the activities or pleasures that were enjoyed prior to the accident.
Damages awarded for loss of enjoyment of life are meant to compensate the injured person for the inability to participate in things they enjoyed before the accident and the negative impact it has on a person’s lifestyle.
To put in the language of the Colorado Supreme Court: loss of enjoyment of life compensates for the limitations, resulting from the defendant’s negligence, on the injured person’s ability to participate in and derive pleasure from the normal activities of daily life, or for the individual’s inability to pursue his talents, recreational interests, hobbies, or avocations.
Clear from this explanation is that loss of enjoyment of life is not limited simply to physical activities you do outside the home, such as hiking in the Rocky Mountains. It also includes things inside the home that have become more difficult or impossible. Take a person who absolutely loves cooking for their family. If a car accident causes them to be unable to stand for long periods of time, their ability to cook and bake is going to be severely limited. Money should be awarded to this person to help compensate them for missing out on this enjoyment.
Damages awarded for pain and suffering fall within a category called general damages. This is because it is difficult to quantify what amount of money will compensate a person for not being able to take part in activities they once enjoyed. When a jury awards money for loss of enjoyment of life, their determination is speculative and more or less a simple guess that the amount of money they are awarding will help make up for whatever you missed out on in life because of your injuries.
Difference Between Pain and Suffering and Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Contrast this type of damage with pain and suffering damages, which is conceptually distinct from other types of general damages. Damages for pain and suffering are meant to compensate you for the physical pain and mental anguish that you had to endure because of the accident. That pain is undoubtedly going to cause you to miss out on things in life, whether that is not being able to go running, jet skiing, or not being able to attend a family member’s birthday party. This type of damage also includes the intellectual gratification you receive from an activity, such as reading and playing Sudoku.
When we talk about pain and suffering, we are referring to both physical and mental pain. This includes discomfort, inconvenience, anguish, and emotional trauma that accompanies an injury. Loss of enjoyment of life, on the other hand, refers to detrimental alterations of the person’s life or lifestyle or the person’s inability to participate in the activities or pleasures of life that were formerly enjoyed prior to the accident. It is possible to have justifiable pain and suffering, but not to the degree that is causing you to miss out on physical and mental activities in life.
The same injuries may affect people differently. A quiet, reclusive person with a desk job may have pain and suffering from losing a leg. He would have a permanent disability but he would be able to continue work. He may have some loss of enjoyment of life but not to the extent that a person who loved to hike, hunt or play tennis would. A person with a bad back and grown children, who don’t do the heavy lifting, may not lose as much enjoyment of life as someone with young children who cannot play “horse” or enjoy the squeals of a young child being tossed into the air.
If properly proved, an award for loss of enjoyment of life is warranted and not duplicative of a separate award for pain and suffering. This is because there is a conceptual difference between the two awards. A jury is able to distinguish the two types of damages and can comprehend the difference between them.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical and mental feelings that you experience as a result of the motorcycle accident. Everyone has different pain tolerance levels. What causes one person to seek treatment or even surgery, another person may be able to tolerate and carry on with their life and manage the pain.
In Colorado personal injury claims, pain and suffering damages represent the compensation a person is entitled because of the mental distress the accident caused. Pain and suffering represent not only the physical pain you feel from your injuries, but also the mental injuries, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional discomforts.
Why Money for Pain and Suffering?
Awarding money for pain and suffering, as well as for the loss of enjoyment of life, rests on the legal fiction that money can help a person after recovery from their injuries caused by a car accident. The court system in America has accepted this fiction, knowing that no amount of money will truly make up for a person feeling pain, nor restoring them to their pre-accident health status.
Nonetheless, it is as close as we can come to right a wrong that has been done by the at-fault party. The court has no hope of evaluating what has been lost, but awarding money may provide a measure of comfort for the injuries and impairments the accident caused.
As one writer on the subject has said, “Translating pain and anguish into dollars can, at best, be only an arbitrary allowance, and not a process of measurement, and consequently the judge can, in his instructions, give the jury no standard to go by; he can only tell them to allow such amount as in their discretion they may consider reasonable. . . . The chief reliance for reaching reasonable results in attempting to value suffering in terms of money must be the restraint and common sense of the jury.” McCormick on Damages, § 88, pp. 318-319.
How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated?
Damages for pain and suffering are where it gets difficult to determine a dollar value, not just for a jury, but also the attorney and insurance adjuster. Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical and mental feelings that you experience as a result of the car accident. Everyone has different pain tolerance levels, therefore some people are entitled to more money for this type of damage than others. What causes one person to seek treatment or even surgery, another person may be able to tolerate and carry on with their lives and simply deal with the pain.
As a general guide, a multiplier of 1.5 to 5 is sometimes used to determine your pain and suffering damages. If you have medical bills of $100,000, you can expect your pain and suffering damages to be between $150,000 and $500,000.
A number of factors will be used to determine what that multiplier will be, including whether you or the defendant will make a good witness in front of the jury, a solid medical treatment timeline, the severity of your injuries, and the degree of negligence the defendant engaged in when injuring you.
The Jury’s Role in Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
One of the most difficult tasks imposed upon a jury in deciding a case involving a car accident is to determine the amount of money the plaintiff is to be awarded as compensation for pain and suffering. No method is available to the jury by which it can objectively evaluate such damages, and no witness may express his subjective opinion on the matter. In a very real sense, the jury is asked to evaluate in terms of money for harm for which monetary compensation cannot be determined with any discernible accuracy.
Jury awards for economic damages include different considerations than its review of awards for pain and suffering. This is because what is reasonable compensation for economic damages – such as lost wages and future medical expenses – is based on calculations, assumptions, and tangible information, whereas awards for pain and suffering, are based on a jury’s subjective determination of the value placed on a person’s pain and suffering.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is the damages that a spouse has incurred as a result of their partner’s car accident. This type of damage compensates the spouse for the love, companionship, and relationship losses that have resulted due to the severity of injuries or death of the other spouse. Colorado is one of many states that recognizes the loss of consortium claims between a married couple.
While only one spouse may be physically injured in the accident, the other is undoubtedly affected by those injuries in serious ways. This type of damage compensates the spouse for the love, companionship, and relationship losses that have resulted due to the severity of injuries or the death of the other spouse. Colorado is one of many states that recognizes the loss of consortium claims between married couples.
To bring a loss of consortium claim, the spouse must show that the defendant injured the person’s spouse in a manner that would subject the defendant to liability under ordinary negligence principles. What this means is that the injured spouse must have a valid and justifiable claim against the at-fault party. The injury to the spouse must cause severe damage to the spousal relationship. A loss of consortium claim is not raised when the injury to the physically injured spouse is relatively minor. The spouse may recover for the loss of the other spouse’s love, affection, protection, support, services, companionship, care, and society.
In determining the amount of damages to award the spouse, relevant factors include, but are not limited to, the spouse’s age, the nature of the spouse’s relationship with the other, the spouse’s emotional and physical characteristics, and whether other consortium-giving relationships are available for the spouse.
As of the time this article is written, Colorado does not allow a child to recover loss of consortium damages when a parent is injured or killed.
This type of damage relates to the psychological impact that the Colorado car collision has caused you. This will include things such as fear, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, and sleep loss. Emotional distress damages normally come into play in more serious accidents. In smaller cases, emotional distress is properly included in pain and suffering compensation.