What are “damages” in a Minnesota personal injury case?
Obtaining fair compensation (“damages”) for personal injuries in Minnesota can be difficult. Every case is different and each person has different treatment and recovery needs. The Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that “there is no fixed standard by which damages for personal injuries can be determined.” Colgan v. Raymond, 146 N.W.2d 530 (1966).
A result of this unclear standard is that insurance companies tend to try and settle cases for minimal amounts. Another consequence of this ruling is that it is often difficult to communicate to a jury what the appropriate level of compensation should be. The following article is a breakdown of how the personal injury attorneys at Sand Law evaluate and communicate damages:
Factors Affecting the Value of Damages
“Damages” is the legal term for money paid to a person as compensation for a loss or injury. Every personal injury case has two categories of damages – “Special” and General”.
What are special damages?
Special damages (aka particular damages) are costs that are incurred as a result of the injury that can be quantified.
These damages usually include:
- actual medical costs,
- lost wages,
- loss of future income,
- anticipated future medical expenses,
- and mileage costs incurred during treatment.
Special damages need to be supported by billing records, tax returns, proof of income, and receipts.
Special damages may seem relatively easy to prove, since they are based on actual costs and supported by records. However, insurance companies will challenge the claimed costs at every opportunity.
An insurer may retrospectively question the course of treatment recommended by the patient’s doctors. For example, doctors often recommend chiropractic treatment after accidents involving a soft tissue injury. Despite the patient following the advice of medical professionals, the insurance company may offer to pay for only a portion of the treatment sessions.
Sand Law’s approach is to draw on expert testimony from leading medical professionals in Minnesota to prove that your treatment was medically necessary.
How you own insurance company deals with special damages.
Your own insurance coverage may be another factor affecting special damages. In some cases, hospital expenses are initially covered by your own insurance. This is important to consider when discussing settlement offers from the at-fault party.
An insurer that has made payments for treatment related to an accident usually has a legal right to recover some or all of its costs from any settlement obtained through a lawsuit. This is called subrogation. To illustrate this common scenario, let’s go through an example together:
An accident victim may incur $20,000.00 in medical bills. The patient may only pay co-pays (say, $500.00) while an insurer covers the majority of the costs ($19,500.00, for example). If the victim accepts a settlement offer for $20,000.00, the insurer who paid for the treatment can place a lien on the settlement and recover $19,500.00, leaving the victim with just $500.00 in special damages. Sand Law’s attorneys can drastically reduce subrogation claims, often by 50-75%, by negotiating with the insurer, leaving more money in your pocket.
What are general damages?
General damages are compensation for non-economic losses, and include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
General damages for non-economic injuries are by nature more difficult to prove. This is because it is difficult to quantify the dollar value for things like emotional distress, humiliation, disfigurement, or pain and suffering.
However, general damages can comprise a significant portion of the total damages award and cannot be ignored!
Sand Law’s personal injury lawyers leverage their experience throughout the negotiation process and in the court room to prove general damages in a way that a jury can understand.
Sand Law’s attorneys in Saint Paul and Minneapolis have extensive experience in valuing personal injury damages and demonstrating damages to a jury. Contact Sand Law for a no cost consultation today. Offices in St. Paul, Woodbury, and White Bear Lake. Call 651-571-4125 or schedule a consultation here on our website.