It’s hard to avoid talk about lawsuits. They make the news all the time, from disputes between private citizens to celebrities suing for royalties. Even when you are casually watching internet videos, there’s a good chance an ad for your local law firm will appear.
Legal talk can get confusing. It’s easy to get lost. This person lost a lawsuit but avoided jail. That person was released from jail because of a technicality related to a previous lawsuit.
What, exactly, is a civil lawsuit, and what is the point? The first thing to remember is that there is a difference between civil and criminal justice. Criminal justice is for people who break the law. When they are found guilty, they serve a criminal sentence such as community service, fines, imprisonment, and so forth. Civil justice is about financial compensation. Someone was harmed, and they need help. The defendant may not have technically committed a crime, but they still owe the plaintiff for their wrongdoing.
This brings us to the topic at hand: personal injury lawsuits. If you were harmed by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation. In this article, we will discuss the purpose of a personal injury suit and explore how it can benefit you.
Getting More Than You Would from Insurance
Most often, an injury results in insurance payouts. This can be a physical injury or even a financial one, depending on the circumstances. In the best-case scenarios, insurance benefits take care of all your needs, and you can move on.
However, injuries can sometimes bypass your insurance benefits. Particularly serious injuries can cost millions of dollars to treat, and your insurance benefits will cap out at a certain point. This can leave you with surmounting bills, unable to keep up. Now you’re both tending to an injury and drowning in financial woes.
A personal injury lawsuit can get you more money than standard insurance benefits. A lawsuit attempts to directly compensate you for your woes. Essentially, you could be completely reimbursed for any of your medical expenses, bringing your finances back to zero.
The same applies to property damage. Sometimes, the damage is more extensive than originally believed. You could receive insurance benefits to cover the original amount, only to find that more work is needed down the road. At this point, you’ll be forced to spend more of your own money to cover the cost.
Like medical expenses, a personal injury suit could repay the exact amount you need to cover the cost of any property damage you suffered due to someone else’s negligence.
Recovering Your Wages
The cost of an injury sometimes goes beyond your medical or property expenses. Often, recovery means missing work. Many people are fortunate enough to have personal time they can take off work, but many do not have this luxury. Missing work means missing income. Even for those with personal and sick time, that time can run out, cutting into income. This compounds your expenses. First, you’re already behind on the bills, then you have less money coming in to fix that problem.
A personal injury lawsuit can compensate you for the income you missed during recovery. Furthermore, you may be eligible to recover potential lost wages. If recovery causes you to miss an opportunity, you could recover that money in a lawsuit. More directly, a catastrophic injury could result in a career change, and calculating that loss is easier to do and to argue in court.
In a civil lawsuit, you may also be eligible to recover pain and suffering compensation. No amount of money can fix your misery, but civil court recognizes that more money can make life easier as you recover. You may need to even restructure your life completely due to your injury, and extra money can help.
To calculate pain and suffering compensation, your attorney has a couple options. For more serious injuries, they can use the “multiplier.” Essentially, they take the time and amount of your suffering, and use that to multiply your medical expenses by a number between one and five. The product is the amount they ask for in pain and suffering. For less serious injuries, your attorney may use the “per diem” method. They take all the days you suffered and add them together, usually using your salary as a basis for the dollar amount.
Because a personal injury lawsuit compensates people for the damage they incurred, the compensation they receive is often referred to as “damages.” All of the damages described above are typical in a personal injury lawsuit, but there is another kind, one that is rarely rewarded.
Recall that a civil lawsuit cannot send someone to jail. However, there are times when a defendant’s actions are so egregiously wrong, that a punishment is appropriate. In lieu of a jail sentence, a civil court may demand this defendant pays punitive damages, “punitive” being a synonym for “punishing.” Punitive damages are ordered strictly for cases where a defendant deserves extra punishment for their actions.
In California, punitive damages are awarded only when a defendant’s actions display “oppression, fraud, or malice.”
If you need extra financial help after an injury that wasn’t your fault, contact our attorneys for help. You can reach us at (607) 228-8404 or use our online contact form.