What Types of Damages can I recover in My Personal Injury Lawsuit?

You normally see 3 types of damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits – General, Special, and Punitive.  The first two are compensatory and their purpose is to provide the plaintiff monetary compensation for his or her economic losses.  In other words, they are supposed to make the person whole again.  The third type, punitive damages, are meant to punish the person responsible for the accident and hit it where it hurts him the most – in their wallet.  The following is an in-depth look at these.

General (non-economic) damages – these damages compensate the victim for a number of their non-economic losses such as:

  • emotional and mental anguish
  • loss of care, companionship, and a decreased quality of life (paid to survivors in a wrongful death claim)
  • permanent physical disfigurement
  • permanent physical impairment
  • physical pain and suffering

Losses of this nature are extremely difficult to calculate as you cannot assign an economic value to the distress you are experiencing.  Consequently, the insurance company along with your Toronto personal injury lawyer may have a formula for calculating the amount of damages.

Special (economic) damages – the compensating of the plaintiff for economic losses they have suffered as a result of their injuries is the main intention of special damages.  The courts will usually award compensation for a number of economic losses such as:

  • Cost of repairing or replacing damaged property
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of items that are deemed irreplaceable
  • Lost income (past and future)
  • Past and future medical expenses

As with general damages, the intention of special damages is to compensate the injury victim (plaintiff) for the losses that the defendant has caused.  The court will consider factors such as lost wages based on time away from the job, medical expenses, and property damage when calculating the amount of compensation to be awarded.

Punitive damages – just as the name implies, punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff for the purpose of punishing the person who is at fault for the accident and your injuries.  Rather than making the plaintiff whole again, these damages are intended to be a deterrent or warning to avoid this type of negligent or reckless behavior in the future.  It also serves to notify other individuals that negligent or reckless behavior will not be tolerated by the courts.

If you’ve recently sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident in the cities of Brantford, Cambridge, or Hamilton as well as anywhere else in Ontario Province, you could be entitled to compensation for general, special, and possibly punitive damages.  However, this is extremely difficult to do on your own.  So why risk settling for less? You owe it to yourself to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer. Not only will they be helpful but will go that extra mile to ensure that you are not inconvenienced while you recover. To help, they schedule appointments and visit you at the hospital or at home.

Reasons for settling a Personal Injury Lawsuit before It goes to Trial

Statistics show that roughly 90% of all personal injury lawsuits throughout the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario Province settle before they ever go to court.  Settling out of court costs less, is less risky, and typically happens much quicker.  It can also provide more benefits than if the case is litigated until the jury makes their final decision.  The following is a list of reasons for settling out of court.

  • It is hard to predict damages and liability in the courtroom – although the plaintiff may be awarded more compensation by a jury compared to what the defendant has offered, there’s no guarantee that it will work out this way.  Trials can be unpredictable to say the least.  For instance, eyewitnesses may be unreliable, the judge may exclude some evidence, the plaintiff’s testimony may have some inconsistencies, and so on.
  • The trial process could take years – for instance, if the plaintiff wins, the defendant can appeal the verdict and prolong the final decision.  Plus, it could be up to a year before the trial commences.  Even the simplest of personal injury cases in Brantford, Cambridge, or Hamilton, the entire process from filing to settling after several appeals could take up to 4 years. This is a long period when you will have to go without any financial assistance.
  • Trials are public; settlements are not – the details of a trial are always a matter of public record unless the judge has ordered that the records be sealed prior to the start of the trial.  This means that every bit of evidence, witness testimonies, and anything else that the plaintiff and defendant use to make each other look bad will be made available so that anyone who wants to read the details can.
  • Trials can be extremely stressful – the legal process involved in a personal injury case is not only complex, it can be extremely stressful for the plaintiff as well as the defendant.  They are having their character questioned in public while at the same time enduring multiple examinations and cross examinations.  Plus, the weeks prior to the court date can be very labor intensive for the defendant, plaintiff, and their lawyers.
  • Unlike trials, settling out of court is less expensive – in most cases, the plaintiff or injury victim has chosen a personal injury lawyer that operates on a contingency fee to handle their case.  Since trials can be very time intensive, the plaintiff would be looking at a significant expense that they would have to pay out of their own pocket.

On a closing note, it is always advisable to settle out of court for the above reasons.  Plus, personal injury lawyers in Brantford, Cambridge, or Hamilton as well as other communities throughout the GTA will guide you throughout the legal process if you retain their services for your particular case.

Ontario Province implements revised Traffic Laws for the New Year Part II – Fines, Penalties, and additional Provisions

A number of sections in Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act were revised by virtue of Bill 31, the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act”.  For instance, the previous range for fine amounts was $60 to $500.  Those amounts will be increased to between $300 and $1,000 and offenders will be given 3 demerit points based on each offense.

More importantly, there are 5 new traffic laws provided for in Bill 31 that could have an impact on your driving.  While the law itself is very complex and tedious, most personal injury lawyers in Cambridge, Brantford, or Hamilton can interpret it for you if you have been injured and intend on filing a claim.

Alcohol and Drugs

Under the new law, individuals driving under the influence of drugs will be fined and penalized the same way that drunk drivers are.  Your license could be suspended up to 90 days and your vehicle could be impounded for up to a week.

Distracted Drivers

Drivers who are caught looking at, talking on, or texting on their cell phones are going to be facing larger fine amounts and extra demerit points.  As of Sept. 1st, 2015, individuals guilty of distracted driving will pay a $490 fine and receive 3 demerit points.  In addition to this, individuals who have G1 or G2 licenses could see them suspended.

Passing Cyclists

While motorists are now required to provide cyclists with a minimum space of 1 meter between them and their vehicle, the amount of the fine for violating this law has yet to be determined.  In addition to this, if you fail to check for cyclists before opening your vehicle door and you do so in their path, you could be facing a fine of up to $365 and will receive 3 demerit points when convicted. However, it would prevent injuries to the cyclists if proper caution is maintained.

Pedestrian Crossovers

Whenever pedestrians are crossing streets at crosswalks or school zones, drivers must now ensure that they have completely crossed before proceeding.  Furthermore, drivers who have outstanding fines may not be able to get a renewal sticker for their vehicle’s license plates.  According to the Ministry of Transportation, 50% of all fatalities involving pedestrians occurred in crossovers at intersections. This is a high statistical figure which needs to be reduced for safer crossovers.

The “Move Over” Law

Whenever you see an emergency vehicle stopped with its blue and red lights flashing, you are required to decrease your speed and move over into the adjacent lane.  This law also applies to tow trucks that have pulled over to assist a motorist and their amber lights are flashing.  If you break this law, you will be fined $490 and get 3 demerit points.

If you have additional questions regarding the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act”, most personal injury lawyers in Brantford, Cambridge, or Hamilton can assist you.

Ontario Province implements revised Traffic Laws for the New Year Part I – Legislation that could save Lives in Ontario Province

It’s no secret that the number of motor vehicle accidents have been steadily increasing on an annual basis in communities like Brantford, Cambridge, and Hamilton.  While this has been a common occurrence, this is the Government’s latest attempt at preventing catastrophic injuries and fatalities from occurring on Provincial roadways.  Known as the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act”, Bill 31 or the Transport Statute Law Amendment Act was passed on the 2nd of June, 2015 and went into effect on January 1st, 2016.

Hypothesis of the 2010 Report

Since the end of 2010, the focal point has been on pedestrian safety in the greater Toronto area ever since a series of collisions that occurred.  There were 14 recorded fatalities in the GTA in one month alone and another 9 that occurred in the surrounding areas during that time frame.  Furthermore, there was an incredibly high number of fatalities involving pedestrians alone.  As a result the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services researched the issue of increasing fatalities.

The results of their study were published in a report entitled the “Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario Pedestrian Death Review:  A Review of All Accidental Pedestrian Deaths in Ontario from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st 2010.”  The study sought to disprove or prove a 4-part hypothesis as follows:

  • Pedestrian fatalities are more during the months of November through March.
  • Pedestrian fatalities are higher when motorists or pedestrians are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Pedestrian fatalities happen when the motorist or pedestrian is using their cell phone or some other electronic entertainment device.
  • In most cases, the pedestrian fatalities that occurred this past calendar year could have been prevented.

It is included in the revised law provisions that will keep cyclists and tow truck drivers’ safe, when they are stopped or traveling along the side of Provincial roadways and streets. This is an important consideration for reducing accidents on the highways.

Eye-Opening Statistics

To say the least, the results of this research study revealed some shocking statistics.  While the first hypothesis listed above was confirmed, other results revealed that:

 

  • 55% of those fatalities occurred in the darker months of January through March and 57% occurred during dusk and dark
  • 28% of pedestrian fatalities were attributed to alcohol, drugs, or a combination while 7% of the drivers involved in pedestrian fatalities were impaired in similar fashion
  • 20% of pedestrians that were fatally injured were distracted

Ironically inclement weather and poor visibility were not major contributory factors as you would expect.  In fact, 81% of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on dry surfaces.  Part II continues with information regarding fines and penalties as well as other provisions of the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act.” which will help in lowering the number of automobile accidents.

How are General, Special, and Punitive Damages calculated in a Personal Injury Case?

In a prior post entitled “What Types of Damages can I recover in My Personal Injury Lawsuit?” it was explained how general, special, and punitive damages differed from one another.  When personal injury lawyers prepare for lawsuits in the communities of Brantford and Hamilton, they will usually calculate what these damages are worth in order to place a value of your case and claim.  Consequently, a common question that many personal injury lawyers have to answer is “How are these damages calculated?” The following will give you a better idea of how the process works.

General or Non-Economic Damages

While the insurance companies and personal injury lawyers may have their own formulas for calculating damages, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to determine those amounts.  Furthermore, when the plaintiff has experience a severe trauma such as a catastrophic injury, judges and juries will usually award larger compensation amounts to the victim. Usually the amount is fixed based on the level of injuries that the victim has sustained.

As an example, let’s assume that the injuries you sustained in an accident were minor and that you were released from the hospital within a few days, the jury would be reluctant to consider any pain and suffering damages.  Conversely, if you were badly burned and you had to have months of rehabilitative therapy and numerous surgeries, you would most likely be awarded damages for pain and suffering.

Special or Economic Damages

The calculation of special damages will usually involve a number of different factors such as lost earning capacity, lost wages (past and future), medical expenses (past and future), property damage, and so on.  For instance, if you were injured in an auto accident, you would calculate these damages based on the damage to your vehicle, medical expenses you paid for treatment of your injuries, and the wages you lost because you had to miss work while you were recovering.  Like general damages, special damages are intended to make you economically whole again.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages occasionally play a role in some personal injury cases in Brantford, Cambridge, or Hamilton.  The intention of punitive damages is to punish the offending party and discourage them from ever committing that type of offense in the future.  When calculating the amount of punitive damages to be awarded, some guidelines that are usually followed include:

·         Punitive damages usually accompany general and special damages.  They are never awarded by themselves.

·         The amount of punitive damages cannot be greater than 4 times that of general and special damages.  In other words, they must be proportionate.

·         The behavior of the defendant was deemed more than just negligent.  In other words, they exhibited a total disregard for the care and safety of the other individual.

If you are still unclear as to how these different types of damages are awarded, you should have your personal injury lawyer interpret this for you.