Articles Posted in Damages

A pile of one dollars bills.In every personal injury case, the parties are trying to work out whether or not one party should be held liable for the injuries and losses of the other party. If the other party is found to be at fault for the accident, then the question becomes how the injured party should be made whole. Because you can’t undo the damage that was done, the only viable option is to award monetary compensation to the victim. The amount of compensation that the victim is entitled to receive is referred to as “damages” in the legal context.

If you are injured in an accident and meet with a personal injury attorney, one of the first things your attorney will do is try to estimate the damages that you may be entitled to. A discussion of the components of your claim may be helpful in determining how your attorney calculates this amount.

General vs. Special DamagesThe first thing to understand is the distinction between general damages and special damages.

A judge's gavelIf you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be tempted to try to handle your claim without an attorney. In our experience, however, non-lawyers who handle their own claims typically wind up with a less favorable result. And once you settle your claim, that’s it – you can’t go back and ask for more. Hiring a personal injury attorney can make sure that you get a fair result and that all of your losses are covered.

1. A Lawyer Can Help You Evaluate Your Claim

Determining what your claim is worth is not as easy as you might think, and it can therefore be difficult to know what a fair settlement amount is.

Law booksMost people may never hire an attorney, typically because the need never arises. But if you’ve recently been injured in an accident, you may be asking yourself whether you should hire a lawyer.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question, we would encourage you to not rule out hiring a lawyer right away. For most accident victims, it’s at least worth talking to a lawyer to help you understand how they can help you with your case. To help facilitate that discussion, we thought we would devote some space on this blog to raise some points for you to consider when making this very important decision.

What are Your Out-of-Pocket Losses?

An illustration of a head showing the brainBrain injuries occur far more often than many people realize. According to the Georgia Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission, 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. Of those, 52,000 will result in death, and 275,000 will be hospitalized. In their most recent study, Georgians suffered 15,608 traumatic brain injuries as of March 2017, more than half of which were caused by car accidents. If you’ve been in an accident and hit your head, you may have suffered a brain injury that could lead to lasting complications.

Traumatic Brain Injuries Defined

The CDC defines a traumatic brain injury as “a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” The CDC notes that traumatic brain injuries encompass a range of injuries from mild to severe. The most common mild TBI is a concussion, but we know that even mild concussions can have long-term consequences.  

Think about how many hours you spend indoors. If you work inside, that’s probably 8 hours per day at a minimum. Then you go home. You might be outside for an hour or two, but you otherwise are inside relaxing or handling other household chores.  

Now think about the air you are breathing while inside. Where is it coming from? You’re breathing the ambient air which is affected by the immediate environment. In office buildings and other climate-controlled places, you’re probably breathing air that is recycled through a ventilation system that is decades old. If you live in an apartment building or condominium, you are also breathing shared air where you live.  

The bottom line is that many of us are breathing air that can become infected with various toxins, and yet we often have no control over addressing that problem. Meanwhile, these toxins can lead to serious illnesses.  

You’ve heard the jingle where a certain insurance company claims to be “on your side.” Even if they don’t say it, every insurance company wants you to believe that they are on your side: they’ll handle your claims quickly, provide top-notch customer service, and will be there whenever you need them, day or night. That may all be true if you’re paying the premiums, but sadly this is not the case if you are injured in an accident and have to make a claim against someone else’s insurance. A recent case out of Columbus, Georgia demonstrates exactly how difficult insurance companies can be when settling claims.  

Jury Finds Geico Acted in Bad Faith

The case discussed in the article involves a man who was injured while riding his bicycle in 2012 when he was struck by a vehicle. The driver was clearly at fault, and the victim did not have health insurance. The victim’s attorney offered to settle the matter for $30,000, which was the limit of the policy. Regardless of the driver’s obvious fault, Geico, who insured the driver, refused to settle the case for more than $12,000, just slightly more than the victim’s hospital bills. When the victim sued, he wound up with a default judgment because neither Geico nor the driver responded to the suit. Geico then tried to get the default judgment set aside, and later objected to the driver’s subsequent bankruptcy proceedings. When the case made it to Federal court, the jury awarded the victim $2.7 million dollars in damages, finding that Geico had acted in bad faith in refusing to settle the claim.  

The pest control company Terminix will pay more than $9 million in criminal fines tied to their use of a banned pesticide that sickened a Delaware family who was on vacation in the US Virgin Islands in 2015. The US Department of Justice says Terminix was sentenced earlier this week after admitting to using a pesticide called methyl bromide at 14 locations, including the St. John resort where the Esmond family was vacationing. Terminix will pay $8 million in fines and $1 million in restitution to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The company will also perform community service.

The EPA Found Traces of the Illegal Substance

The incident occurred in 2015 while the family was on vacation at the Sirenusa resort on St. John when two employees of the local Terminix fumigated the villa below theirs on March 18 with methyl bromide, which is not approved for residential use. After the family became ill, the Environmental Protection Agency found traces of the lethal gas in their villa. The exposure was so significant inside the treated unit that 6 weeks after the family fell ill, dangerous amounts of methyl bromide were still being detected inside the rental villa, according to EPA documents.

Each year, almost 5 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and some victims suffer traumatic injuries which require immediate medical treatment. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you should meet with a Georgia dog bite attorney to see if compensation is available.

Common Physical Injuries

Dogs have very sharp teeth which can easily penetrate human skin. On top of that, a dog can twist your arm or another body part while holding it in its mouth, causing further damage. Dog bite injuries range from the superficial to severe and include the following:

A Colorado woman has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks, claiming that an employee improperly served her a cup of hot tea at a drive-through window, which caused the tea to spill, severely burning her and killing her dog, who was in the care at the time.

The plaintiff, Deanna Salas-Solano, is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from the coffee company, according to the complaint her lawyers filed in the US District Court for the District of Colorado. The incident occurred in September of 2015, when Salas-Solano visited the drive-through window of a Denver Starbucks and ordered a Venti hot tea. According to her complaint, she did not specify that she wanted her drink extra hot. When the Starbucks employee hander her the cup of tea, its lid was not secured, it lacked a hot-cup sleeve, and it was not double-cupped, which is Starbucks’s standard procedure for serving hot tea. The complaint also alleges that the beverage was unreasonably hot. Once she took the cup of tea into her hands, the hot temperature began to burn them, the complaint states. Hot tea then began to spill out of the cup through the unsecured lid and onto her body, which caused her clothing to melt. The tea caused severe burns to Salas-Solano, which caused her to experience intense pain on her stomach, legs, and lap.

Possibly the most disturbing aspect of the incident concerns the plaintiff’s dog. When Salas-Solano began to scream and writhe in pain after the tea spilled, her dog, Alexander, jumped into her lap and caused the rest of the tea to spill onto his body. The dog was then taken to an emergency veterinarian, and died shortly after form injuries caused by the hot tea. Salas-Solano was also taken to a hospital, where she was treated for severe burns and, the following day, underwent skin-graft surgery for “2% total body surface area second-degree burn injury to the abdomen and bilateral thighs,” according to the lawsuit. She has since reportedly suffered permanent scarring, loss of feeling and emotional distress, among other things, the suit states.

Damages in a personal injury lawsuit are designed to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries he has suffered and to put him the same position he was in before the accident occurred. Some types of damages are objective and easily calculated, such as medical expenses and lost wages. But pure economic damages are often not enough to make the plaintiff whole again. After all, he has just undergone a traumatic ordeal and suffered injuries that are not as easily quantifiable as medical bills and lost wages. This is where non-economic damages come into play. Non-economic damages are the abstract damages a plaintiff suffers during and after an accident, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.

These types of damages are a little trickier to calculate.

Measuring Pain and Suffering