Brain Injury Law

What is a Brain Injury Case Worth in Damages?

Unfortunately, car accidents often lead to traumatic brain injuries. It's not uncommon for a sudden, high-speed impact to cause a motorist's head to collide with a steering wheel, window or dashboard. The resulting symptoms of a brain injury could include memory loss, confusion and personality changes. In many cases, victims must undergo long-term rehabilitation programs at facilities dedicated to brain injury treatment. Due to the expense of health care, a car accident settlement could reach into the millions of dollars.

A jury in California awarded $52.84 million to two brothers who suffered traumatic brain injuries after a head-on collision with a big rig in February 2018, for instance. A woman in Massachusetts left with permanent brain damage after a car accident received an $8 million settlement in November of 2017.

While some personal injury claims garner high settlements, the circumstances of each case determine the financial costs to a victim. Important factors include a person’s ability to work and whether treatments and therapies could offer future relief from symptoms. A contract with an indemnification clause could influence a case as well. Indemnification essentially means a party cannot be held liable for future legal claims. For example, a victim hit by a person driving a rental car probably would not be able to pursue damages from the rental car agency. The rental agreement would likely indemnify the agency from paying for future damages. However, the renter driving the car could be the target of a lawsuit.

Compensatory Damages

The law allows for victims of negligence to pursue damages. Compensatory damages reflect the costs that an injured person has suffered and will suffer as a result of a car crash. These damages, also known as actual damages, are not meant to punish a negligent party. They are intended to reimburse the victim.

Different Types of Compensatory Damages

A variety of direct expenses attributed to an accident could legally qualify for compensation. While these vary on a case-by-case basis, they could include the following:

  • Pain and Suffering: The law recognizes this category of expenses as the toll taken by physical or mental distress. Severity of injury, pain level and expectation of future pain define this expense. Examples of mental issues include stress and anxiety caused by an accident's lingering trauma.
  • Medical Expenses: Brain injuries often require physical and cognitive therapies, and these ongoing costs could factor into a settlement. The need for medical equipment, such as a wheelchair, and in-home care could represent damages. Ambulance fees, hospitalization and travel costs to get to appointments also form common medical expenses.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: This legal term describes an accident victim's inability to take pleasure in daily life. Depending on the state, the laws might view this as part of pain and suffering or designate it as a separate value.

Punitive Damages

Courts at their discretion might approve punitive damages against defendants who showed a clear disregard for safety. These damages are separate from the compensatory form and are intended to serve as punishment.

Calculating Damages

Medical bills immediately after an accident create substantial financial burdens. The calculation of a car accident settlement might also encompass the expected future costs for care. In-home care and household help could apply as well. The plaintiff's lost income and loss of future income are also important parts of the equation. Other costs that could qualify as damages include pain and suffering, reduction of life quality and the loss of companionship and spousal support.

Likelihood of Future Damages

People faced with a lifetime of brain damage could request payment for their future losses. The burdens of future expenses might arise from continued pain and suffering, mental distress and ongoing medical therapies and care.

To place a dollar figure on these anticipated expenses, victims must generally provide testimony from experts such as doctors and physical therapists. Typically, these witnesses explain the plaintiff's medical limitations and how long they are expected to last. Testimony will generally describe how a disability will limit the possibility of employment.

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