What Types of Damages Can I Expect to Receive From a Head Injury Claim?
Head Injuries and Their Effects
Head injuries can be among the most consequential of any form of injury. If you slip and fall and hit your head, whether it is at work or while visiting a store or friend’s house, the result could be a traumatic brain injury (TBI). This means the blow to the head caused either temporary or permanent damage to the brain. A serious car accident can certainly result in a TBI, but even slamming on your brakes suddenly to avoid an accident can jar your brain enough that it can lead to a mild or severe concussion.
The most common causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are:
- Falls: 40.5 percent
- Accidental blunt trauma: 15.5 percent
- Accidents involving motor vehicles: 14.3 percent
- Violence: 10 percent
Head injuries can be relatively minor or very severe, but any type of head injury almost always results in serious consequences for the injured party. Some of those serious consequences include:
- Chronic pain
- Difficulties with balance
- Loss of smell
- Problems hearing
- Problems remembering
- Problems seeing
- Problems sleeping
- Problems speaking
- Problems walking or running
- Tingling in limbs
- Trouble concentrating
TBIs can be very serious injuries. The changes caused by a TBI can often last an individual’s entire life. Even a minor head injury can lead to problems like trouble concentrating, difficulty maintaining your balance, constant headaches, etc.
Different Types of Damages in Head Injury Cases
One question many plaintiffs have when they speak to a head injury claim attorney has to do with how much they can expect to receive in damages. To determine how much compensation a
plaintiff is eligible for, it is essential to understand that there are two types of head injury damages — economic and non-economic.
Economic damages, sometimes known as special damages, are intended to help replace the financial losses someone with a serious head injury has suffered.
Economic damages include:
- Medical costs, including expected future costs
- Costs associated with surgery, assisted-living facilities and ongoing treatment plans
- Lost wages and future expected earnings losses
- Property damage
- Funeral and burial expenses, if a head injury leads to a fatality
- Economic damages are intended to help financially replace the losses someone with a serious head injury has suffered.
While most people think of economic losses as the reason to seek compensation, not all damages are economic in nature. Non-economic damages deal with losses that do not come with a clear price tag but are serious nonetheless. Any real but non-tangible loss is characterized as a non-economic loss, and damages can be awarded for these losses just as they can for economic losses.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, deal with losses that are not necessarily of an economic nature. They do not come with a clear price tag. These can include less tangible losses such as:
- Loss of companionship and society
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of reputation
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
Any sort of real, but non-tangible loss, is characterized as a non-economic loss, and damages can be awarded for this.
How Head Injury Damages Are Calculated
Economic damages are calculated by looking at current medical costs and current wages and using them to project future expected medical costs and wages. Attorneys will sometimes bring in medical experts or other professionals to help determine future costs. Some economic costs are obvious, but there may be indirect economic costs from your injury that your attorney can help you receive.
While economic damages can be relatively straightforward, non-economic damages can be more challenging to evaluate, and it is often harder to be awarded these damages. Unfortunately, it is often harder to be awarded these damages because they are less tangible and, therefore, harder to calculate. However, with the help of an attorney, you may be able to demonstrate why you are entitled to these damages. Typically, the most you can receive in non-economic damages is 10 times whatever you were awarded in economic damages.
Damages depend largely on the severity of the brain injury. In other words, someone who suffers a mild concussion in a car accident will not receive the kind of damages that will be awarded to someone who is the victim of a serious brain injury that renders them unable to work or worse. This is mainly because more mild injuries will only entail temporary costs, while serious head injuries will continue to cause problems for a person for a long time — possibly the rest of their lives.
How to Maximize the Damages You Get for a Brain Injury
As we noted above, the amount that you receive in a brain injury claim depends in part on the severity of the TBI. An experienced brain injury lawyer, however, can prepare a case that could result in significant financial awards. An experienced attorney will make sure that you are seen by competent doctors, and they can arrange for specialists and other experts to testify in court about how your injuries have affected you.
A life care planner can testify about possible future medical costs including medications and physical therapy, what long-term care services you may need in the future and whether or not you will need help to accomplish daily tasks. Financial medical experts can testify on how you will lose wages over your lifetime because of a TBI and how your TBI will affect your ability to work. They can explain to the court how people with TBIs often retire sooner than many other people and how that influences your future earnings.
While it is not allowed in every jurisdiction, a hedonic expert can offer testimony that shows how your quality of life has been reduced by your pain and suffering as well as how your TBI will affect your family.
If your attorney and these experts have done a good job in presenting your case, your damage award could be significant. The ultimate amount that you will receive can be affected by how much you may be responsible for your accident, how much your attorney has paid for medical costs and other expenses during the trial and your attorney’s contingency fee. Even with all these costs coming out of your award, you could still receive substantial financial compensation.
The secret to receiving these kinds of awards, however, is working with an experienced brain injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys may not understand the long-term effects that a TBI can produce. An attorney who is experienced in dealing with head trauma, specifically, can better prepare a case that deals with all of the consequences of suffering a TBI whether minor or severe.
One of the ways an experienced brain injury attorney can help is by looking at recent jury verdicts in other TBI cases in your area. They will use this knowledge along with the testimony of medical and life experts to ensure you receive a just settlement.
What Factors Influence a Head Injury Claim?
There are several factors that play a role in shaping how a brain injury lawsuit or workers’ compensation claim plays out, including how much the person is awarded in damages. These factors include:
In a personal injury lawsuit where liability is crystal clear and can be shown to a judge or jury quite convincingly, it will typically result in a larger award or settlement. If liability is more difficult to prove, this may affect any damages awarded. Remember, Pennsylvania is a comparative injury state. That means if the defendant can show that you are 30 percent responsible for the accident, then whatever reward you receive will be reduced by 30 percent. So if you were awarded $100,000, you would receive $70,000. If the defendant can show that you are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, even with the TBI, you may not receive an award.
If you have suffered a TBI at work, who is at fault is not so much the issue. You need to seek immediate medical attention and speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Employers’ insurance companies do not like paying for TBIs and will try to fight it every step. While you can receive compensation for medical costs and lost wages, unlike a personal injury lawsuit, you will not be awarded any compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
2. Number of People Responsible for Your Injury
If more than one person is responsible for your injury, this is known as multiple tortfeasors in legal terms. When this is the situation, each of the individuals involved will be represented by a different lawyer or an insurance company.
The more people there are that are responsible for your injury, the more complicated the process of arriving at a settlement or handling the claim in court. Multiple tortfeasors can lead to delays and complications in terms of determining how much each responsible party should pay in damages.
3. Characteristics of the Injured Party
When a judge or jury is attempting to determine what damages should be paid to someone who has suffered a TBI, they will include their age, their occupation, any previous medical history that might play into a TBI, their past wages, medical costs, how much they may earn in the future to name a few things.
Insurance company adjusters and lawyers, whose job it is to pay as little as possible in any case, will also try to influence a judge or jury by describing whether the injured party was “likable” or not. A person who was well-liked by his family and community may receive a larger settlement from a jury, for instance, than someone who was perhaps not so likable.
4. Where the Case Will Be Tried
If you are unable to settle with the insurance company, and your lawsuit goes to trial, where the trial will be held can influence the amount of money you will receive in damages. What you receive in damages in one state can be completely different than what you might receive in another.
This is even true within states. If you suffer a TBI in a more rural, conservative community in Pennsylvania, you may not receive the same kind of award that you would if you were hurt in a more urban community like Harrisburg or Philadelphia. One way to compensate for this problem is to make sure that you work with an experienced brain injury attorney.
5. Bad Conduct by the Defendant
Punitive damages are not awarded in every case. But if the defendant in the case has shown particularly egregious conduct, judges or juries can most certainly include punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their behavior.
The possibility of punitive damages can be used by your attorney to convince the defendant’s insurance company to give you a more favorable settlement. Even if you do receive punitive damages, for instance, in a medical malpractice suit, some of the punitive damages will go into a special state fund that helps pay for defendants whose insurance will not cover the cost of awarded damages.
6. Mitigating Circumstances
Your damages may be reduced if the defendant’s insurance company can show that you did not seek medical treatment immediately after being injured or that your behavior after the accident contributed to making your injuries worse, resulting in more expensive medical bills. The result is that your medical expenses may be more expensive. Insurance companies can argue that this behavior means you do not deserve as much money as you are seeking.
The way to avoid this issue is very straightforward. As soon as you suffer any kind of injury, especially a head injury, seek medical attention immediately even if you think it is only mild. TBIs can often take several days to manifest themselves, so seeking medical attention immediately is a smart thing to do in terms of future damages as well as for your overall health.
What Is the Timeline for Receiving Damages in a Head Injury Case?
Like many factors in a TBI case, the timeline depends on a number of factors. Most injured parties choose to wait until they have recovered from the injury to the extent possible. For instance, in a workers’ compensation case, an injured party may wish to wait until they reach maximum medical improvement (MMI).
This is the point at which your doctor tells you that you have recovered as much as you are going to recover from your injury. In other words, your condition is not likely to get worse or better. At this time, your attorney may make a demand for settlement. An insurance company may settle, or you can file a lawsuit.
You should check with your attorney to determine if there is a specific statute of limitations involving your case, as there may be different circumstances if your case involves a personal injury claim or a workers’ compensation claim.
Ultimately, how long it may take for you to receive damages in a TBI case depends on two factors: liability and medical evidence. If the liability is straightforward and you have lots of medical evidence to show the extent of your injuries, your case will be settled much sooner than if the question of liability is an open one and you lack sufficient medical evidence to back up your claim.
If You or a Loved One Have Suffered a TBI, Contact KBG Injury Law for Help
Getting a clear picture of the damages you may qualify for can be a challenge, which is why you may want to speak to a head injury attorney in Pennsylvania. Contact KBG Injury Law for a personalized consultation to learn how much your case may be worth.
We offer a free consultation. You can call us at 1-800-509-1011 or visit our contact us page where you can leave us your contact information and some details on your or your loved one’s TBI, and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.