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Calculate Permanent Injury Injury Law
My sister drove across railroad tracks and was hit by a train. The gates had not come down and the lights were not flashing. Miraculously, she survived, but she is in a persistent vegetative state and the doctor doesn’t know if she will ever come out of the coma. How do you put a dollar figure on the value of her case?
Even if your sister were to come out of the coma, it is uncertain as to whether her injuries will leave any permanent brain damage or not.
First things first, though. Your sister’s attorney will first need to prove liability. He will need to show that someone or some entity was negligent and that the negligence was the cause of her injuries. Some states have a contributory negligence law that allows no recovery of damages to an injured person if that person was even 1% liable for their own accident. In other states there is a comparative negligence law that allows the injured party to collect a percentage of their damages if they were partially responsible for the accident. These laws will come into play once liability has been established.
Regarding damages, in a lawsuit filed against the responsible party or parties, your sister will be entitled to both economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those that can usually be easily quantified and proven with documentation. Her medical bills, lost wages, medicines, medical equipment and supplies, ambulance fees, and other costs are economic damages. In addition, she will have some economic damages that are more difficult to quantify, including future medical bills, future medicines, future wage loss and lost earning capacity. Lost earning capacity is what value will be placed on her lost ability to earn a future living and is based on her education, work experience and background.
In addition to economic damages, your sister will be entitled to non-economic damages that include inconvenience, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. (Some states limit non-economic damages to a specific amount, so ask your attorney if you are in one of those states.) Loss of consortium compensates you for loss of sexual relations, affection, services, like household chores, caring for small children, love, etc. It is often brought by the spouse of the injured party, but sometimes by the injured party themselves. Our legal system can offer only money to compensate us for our pain and our suffering, and in states with a cap on such damages, they are often insufficient.
There are many unknowns in your questions, such as what your sister’s specific injuries were, what she did for a living, her age, and what her prognosis is for recovery. We can talk in hypothetical terms so you can see what amount of damages someone could recover with a similar situation.
Let’s set up the scenario where a woman in her 40s suffered severe head injuries, putting her into a coma with no hope for recovery. In essence, therefore, she is totally and permanently disabled. She was a waitress in a fancy restaurant atop a skyscraper in Chicago and had been for 8 years. Before that, she was a bartender. She has an Associates Degree from a community college. She was earning $20,000 a year in salary and an additional $35,000 a year in tips. Her attorney would hire an economic expert to put together some figures using life-expectancy tables for someone with her injury vs. life-expectancy tables had she not been injured. Damages for pain and suffering are based on many factors (see questions in Pain and Suffering Section) and attorneys often look to other similar cases for guidance. Here are some possible figures:
Medical/hospital bills to date:$ 68,000
Future Medical Bills (estimate): $ 750,000
Medicine to date:$ 22,000
Future Medicine (estimate): $ 125,000
Lost Wages (from date of accident to present, 5 months):$ 22,920
Lost Earning Capacity (probably same as past earnings x 20 years until retirement) :$1,100,000
Total Economic Damages: $2,088,570
Pain and Suffering:$8 mil-$12 mil
Total Settlement or Jury Verdict Range: $10 mil-$14 mil
This is an example of a possible calculation of a settlement based on fictitious facts and figures. Your individual case may vary from this substantially. If you live in the Washington D.C. area, the amount might be significantly higher. If you live in Boise, Idaho, it could be much lower.
For information on how to value your specific claim, and to find out if your state has a limit on non-economic damages, contact a personal injury attorney in your area.
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