Every day, the Michigan car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg, P.C. help our clients win their cases and get the compensation they deserve. But what kind of compensation are our clients able to receive? This article breaks down the various forms of compensation and benefits available to people involved in a personal injury case.
In general, there are two types of compensation, economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are often referred to as “special damages” and refer to damages for which money is a comparable substitute. Typical examples include lost wages and medical expenses.
Michigan law provides for the payment of lost wages when injured in a Michigan car wreck of due to some other person’s negligence. Wage loss benefits are typically determined by looking at pay stubs, W9s and tax returns. For self-employed individuals, wage loss computation is more difficult but still available.
If you are injured in a car or truck accident, wage loss benefits are covered under the Michigan no-fault law, and specifically MCL 500.3107(1)(b). Under this law, a person injured in a car accident can receive 85% of gross wages for up to 3 years from the date of the accident, even if the person is at-fault. However, you are capped at 3 years and there is a monthly maximum.
In addition, under the Michigan no-fault law, you can only obtain the income you would have earned if not for the accident,. You cannot claim a loss of earning capacity, which is a decrease in a person’s ability to earn income in the future.
In non-motor vehicle accident cases, there is no time limit cap or dollar limitation for wage loss benefits. A claimant can also make a claim for loss of earning capacity.
In almost all personal injury cases, you are entitled to receive compensation for the past medical expenses that have already been incurred as a result of the accident, as well as future medical expenses that will be warranted due to future treatment.
Medical expenses include hospital bills, doctor’s bills, rehabilitation, physical therapy, prescriptions, home health aides and other medical costs.
Figuring our future medical expenses is oftentimes not easy. An expert – such as a Life Care Planner – can help compute the cost of care. These experts are extremely helpful in catastrophic injury cases where medical treatment may be needed for the rest of one’s life.
Non-economic damages are often referred to as “general damages” and they cover losses where money is not so easily substituted.
Pain and Suffering:
Pain and suffering is the actual pain and resulting suffering an injured person feels as a result of the negligence. It includes the corporal or physical injury to the body. This can result from broken bones, a herniated disc or torn ligaments. Although there are no hard and fast definitions under Michigan law, pain and suffering is usually the umbrella term for all physical and emotional damage an injured person is claiming in a lawsuit.
Disfigurement is the spoiling of somebody’s appearance. It is often a separate category from pain and suffering because disfigurement demonstrates outward deformity, rather than just the pain the claimant feels. Typical disfigurements include scarring. However, disfigurement can only include loss of limbs and extremities (fingers, toes, etc.)
Other non-economic damages include loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, loss of society and companionship, and physical impairment.
The value of non-economic damages has been fought over for hundreds of years and this fight will continue into the future. Insurance companies used to value non-economic damages by using a multiple of economic damages. For example, if a person had $10,000 in economic damages, the non-economic damages could be valued at 3 times that figure – or $30,000. However, this method has mostly been discarded by insurance companies and lawyers.
In essence, the value of non-economic damages is what ever a jury is willing to award. Obviously the specifics of each case differs, but important factors in determining non-economic damages includes:
- The severity of the injuries and impairments. A person who can’t walk on his leg will usually be found to have a higher value injury than a person who only has a simple ankle sprain.
- The length of time of each impairment. The longer an impairment lasts, the higher the value. If a person cannot lift anything over 10 pounds for the rest of their life, this is a very significant event.
- The amount of economic damages. Although multiples of economic damages are not used as much anymore, juries still use economic damages as a guide. As a result, higher economic damages usually leads to higher non-economic damage awards.
- The Plaintiff. People like awarding money to people they life. People don’t award money to people they don’t like. The same goes for juries.
- The Defendant. Juries will punish defendants they don’t like. You could have the same exact case – everything could be the same – but a jury will give more money – sometimes significantly more – to a plaintiff if the defendant comes across as arrogant and rude rather than contrite.
Another important factor in determining the amount of non-economic damage is the law itself. In Michigan, there are caps on non-economic damages in certain cases, most notably in medical malpractice and products liability.
This means even if a jury awards $5,000,000 in non-economic damages in a medical malpractice trial, that award will be reduced to the current cap, which is $444,900 (or $794,500 for cases involving injuries to the brain, spinal cord, paraplegia or quadriplegia,). Juries are not instructed by judges about the caps during the pendency of a trial. Instead, the reductions come post-trial.
There are no specific rules on how much a person is entitled to in compensation in a Michigan personal injury case. There are no state or federal guidelines that give a specific dollar figure for a specific amount. Instead, it is up to the jury to award these amounts and for your attorney to put fight hard in ensuring the highest maximum award is given.
The Michigan personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg, P.C. will fight for you at every step to ensure you get the money you deserve. We prepare each case with an eye towards getting high dollar awards. We hire the best experts and spend the time on each case to present it in the best light possible.
Call the experienced Michigan personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg, P.C. at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) so we can help you. The phone call is free and there is no fee unless we win your case.