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Anatomy of a Personal Injury Settlement

In a personal injury case involving your child, what would a settlement look like? What aspects of the accident would be covered, and how much could you expect to receive? Once your attorney begins the negotiation process with the insurance company, you’re likely to hear phrases like “actual damages,” “pain and suffering,” “punitive damages” and so on. What do these words mean in terms of actual dollars you’d receive for your child’s recovery needs? To answer, let’s break down the “anatomy” of a personal injury settlement, starting with the components your attorney will demand.


Actual Damages

Also sometimes called “compensatory damages,” this part of the settlement effectively addresses the overall cost of getting your child well, along with repairing/replacing any physically damaged property like your vehicle, etc. The overarching goal of actual damages is to “reset” your family and your child to pre-accident condition—or as close to it as possible—and to compensate you financially for any damage that cannot simply be repaired.

Under the banner of actual damages, your attorney will break the costs down into categories within your settlement demand, including:

    • Medical expenses (Present, past and future)
    • Property loss
    • Disability costs (i.e., costs to take care of your child if she sustains a long-term disability)
    • Lost wages (Your child doesn’t have a job, but you do—and if you’ve lost income in taking care of her, that’s part of the cost of recovery.)
    • Pain and suffering. (This category attempts to place a dollar value on your child’s and family’s physical and emotional suffering caused by the accident.)

Punitive Damages

You’ll only see punitive damages if your case goes to court. Punitive damages are awarded by a judge or jury for the purpose of penalizing/punishing the defendant for the defendant’s wrong behavior, rather than compensating your family’s loss.

Your attorney may advise you to take the matter to court and ask for punitive damages if there is ample evidence that the defendant acted maliciously and/or if the accident caused excessive damage.

“Pain and Suffering”

With the exception of “pain and suffering,” all your compensatory damage claims can be measured and proved by receipts, proof of income, etc.—so the primary focus of negotiation will likely be in evaluating contributing factors to the accident, deciding who is at fault and to what extent.

“Pain and suffering” can be a more contentious matter, because it is more ambiguous—and while your attorney will use a formula to calculate how much to ask for in pain and suffering, it is the area where you can expect the most pushback.

You’ll need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to improve your chances of receiving a fair and proper personal injury settlement for your child. For a free case evaluation, call Greathouse Trial Law at (678) 310-2827.

Riah Greathouse, Esq.

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