General Damages Formula
The total compensation you can get in a personal injury claim is called the "general damages". It is usually based on your medical expenses (known as "medical specials" or simply "specials"), multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5 (sometimes higher) to compensate for pain and suffering, permanent disability, lost social and educational opportunities, etc. To this, add any income that you have lost during your recovery period.
The basic formula is:
Sum of medical bills x 1.5 to 5
+ Lost income
= General Damages
So, for example, if your medical bills totaled $800, and your lost income was $450 because you had to take a week off work, the damages would be calculated as follows:
$800 x (1.5 to 5)
= $1,650 to $4,450
Now you might be saying to yourself: what about my car, which was damaged in the accident? Don't forget that a personal injury claim is only about the injury YOU have suffered. Property damages are not included -- you would have to file a completely separate claim to get compensated for that.
Factors Influencing your Personal Injury Compensation
In our example, you could claim between $1,650 and $4,450. As you can see, this is a pretty big range -- around $3,000 -- and this is still a relatively small personal injury claim. If your medical bills totaled $10,000, the range would be even greater -- $15,000 to $50,000, plus lost income. So what determines where in that wide range your compensation will fall?
The following factors play a role in deciding that:
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Missed time at college, graduate school, internships, or other kinds of classes
- Reduction of social life
Permanent disability or disfigurement seem straightforward enough. If you are forced to quit your job, it is pretty easy to calculate the money you will lose. But how do you calculate pain and suffering? What are missed classes and educational opportunities worth? How do you put a price tag on your social life? Read our guide to Demonstrating Pain and Suffering.