Common Damages in a Brain Injury Case
A brain injury can have a devastating effect on the person who suffers it. Not only can the initial injury be extremely painful or even deadly, but a brain injury can often result in health issues that last for decades. Each year, about 1.7 million people suffer a brain injury, and an additional 5.3 million in the United States live with a lifelong disability as a result of a brain injury. But brain injuries are not only harmful to a person’s health; they also come with enormous financial costs, both to the individual and to society at large.
Research has shown that the lifetime cost of a patient’s treatment for brain injury ranges from $85,000 to $3 million. Notice that these figures only account for the physical treatment a brain injury patient will need. They do not take into account other financial costs that accrue from a brain injury. For example, the unemployment rate two years after a brain injury for the average adult is 60%, indicating that the majority of brain injury patients are unable to find work after their accident in addition to having to pay the steep costs of medical care. Further, estimates show that up to 53% of people who are homeless are affected by a brain injury. This high rate of unemployment and homelessness among brain injury patients requires many to rely on government assistance, which imposes an additional cost on society at large.
But not everyone who suffers a brain injury is left to their own devices to pay for their treatments. If the brain injury was the result of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the law provides a remedy in the form of damages. Below, we’ll examine the different types of damages available generally and which ones a brain injury plaintiff might be able to recover.
What are “Damages?”
“Damages” is the legal word for the monetary value of a plaintiff’s loss, which the plaintiff may be able to recover from the defendant if they can prove all the elements of a personal injury claim. There are two main types of damages available to a plaintiff in a personal injury case: compensatory damages (or “actual damages”) and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages, as their name would suggest, are damages that are designed to make the plaintiff whole again–that is, to put them in the same position they were in before the events that gave rise to the personal injury suit. These types of damages form the foundation of every award of damages in a personal injury case. Compensatory damages are further split into special compensatory damages and general compensatory damages. Special compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for the monetary expenses they incurred as a result of the accident and for which a specific amount is generally fairly easy to determine. This can include, for example, medical bills, lost wages, loss of future wages, and cost of future medical care. General compensatory damages compensate the plaintiff for the non-monetary damages they incurred as a result of the accident. They are called “general” damages because they compensate the victim for harm that is “generally” associated with an injury and for which a specific amount is harder to determine. This includes damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium.
Whereas compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant. As such, they are only awarded in very rare cases where the defendant’s conduct in causing the accident was intentional or the result of gross negligence. “Gross negligence” simply means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of the plaintiff. Even if the jury (or judge if it is a bench trial) finds that the defendant’s conduct was intentional or grossly negligent, that still does not mean that the plaintiff will receive punitive damages. Rather, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that punitive damages should be awarded by clear and convincing evidence and, if so, their amount.
If the jury (or judge if it is a bench trial) finds for the plaintiff in a personal injury suit involving a brain injury, the plaintiff will receive the full measure of compensatory damages they are entitled to by law. This includes all of the monetary and non-monetary loss they incurred as a result of the accident, plus any future losses. For example, a brain injury patient could receive any of the following forms of compensatory damages:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Loss of wages
- Lost future wages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (the inability of the plaintiff to engage in activities related to companionship with their spouse)
- Loss of opportunity (the inability to obtain a benefit or avoid a loss due to the injury)
The exact monetary value of these damages will be different in every case since each plaintiff is unique and will incur a different amount of expenses to treat their injuries. Although every successful brain injury plaintiff will receive compensatory damages in the amount necessary to make them whole, not every plaintiff will receive punitive damages. Only in cases where the defendant’s conduct was intentional or grossly negligent–such as assault–will the plaintiff be able to recover punitive damages from the defendant.
Contact a Tampa Bay Brain Injury Attorney
If you have suffered a brain injury due to the misconduct of another person, you may be able to recover the costs of your medical expenses and other financial liabilities. For more information about the damages available to brain injury plaintiffs, please contact the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765