When an individual suffers moderate to severe injuries from an accident, it can be a life-altering experience. High medical bills combined with time missed from work can create a financial hardship for victims and their families, and the physical and emotional pain an injury causes can put additional strain on the household. When an injury results from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, victims deserve to be compensated. The legal term for this is called “damages”.
Compensatory damages in personal injury cases can be divided into two general categories; economic damages and non-economic damages.
These are losses incurred by the injured party that are quantifiable. Such as:
- Property Damage: In most accident cases, there is some property damage that accompanies the injuries. The most common example is with an auto accident case in which the vehicle the injured party was driving is damaged.
- Medical Costs: Various types of medical expenses may be incurred depending on the type and extent of the injuries. For more severe injuries, there may be hospitalization costs, cost for surgeries and/or various other medical treatments, rehabilitation costs, and costs for ongoing medical care (when there is a debilitating injury).
- Lost Wages: When someone suffers an injury, they may have to miss work for medical appointments, and depending on the type of work they do, they may be out of work for a while during their recovery period.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: When someone suffers a debilitating injury, they may not be able to return to their previous job. And in the most serious cases, they may not be able to participate in any type of gainful activity at all.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses: In the case of an accident that results in a fatality, the victim’s family should be compensated for funeral and burial costs.
Calculating the Value of Lost Wages
There are a couple of different ways that your attorney may be able to calculate the value of your lost wages, depending on whether you are paid an hourly rate or are a salaried employee.
Hourly employees are paid at a base hourly rate. In order to calculate the value of your last wages, your lawyer will simply calculate your base hourly rate by the number of hours that you lost due to your injuries. For example, let’s say that you lost 500 hours of work due to your car accident Injuries. If you were paid Virginia’s minimum wage of $9.50 per hour, this would amount to a total value of $4,750.
The process for salaried employees is a little bit different. Here, your lawyer will take your annual yearly salary and divide that by 2080. This is generally the number of workday hours you will work in a given year. Your attorney will then multiply that number by the number of hours you missed out on by being unable to work. If you earned an average yearly salary of $60,000, and you missed out on 500 hours of work due to those same car accident injuries, this would amount to a total of nearly $15,000 in lost wages.
It will be important that you provide your attorney with your pay stubs, tax returns, other financial records, and medical documentation of your injuries. This will go a long way in helping to show the courts that your lost wages were accurately calculated based on the severity of your injuries and your income.
Compensation for Loss of Future Wages
You also have the right to be compensated for your loss of future potential earnings. When your injuries are so severe that you are no longer able to continue working in the same industry or are suffering from a permanent disability that prevents you from working at all, you have the right to be repaid for this type of loss.
The reasonable amount of money that you have been expected to earn, plus any additional bonuses, salary increases, and under other benefits you might have earned should all be taken into consideration when your attorney is calculating the value of your lost wages.
These are intangible losses that are more difficult to quantify because they have to do with the impact the injury has on the victim’s life, and the life of their loved ones. Non-economic damages may include:
- Physical Pain and Suffering: A serious injury can cause extreme physical pain, and oftentimes, the victim must endure this pain for an extended period of time. If the victim suffers a long-term debilitating injury, the pain and suffering may be permanent.
- Psychological Distress: Having to adjust to life after a severe injury can be very hard on someone emotionally. Uncertainty about the future, wondering how long the injury will last, how long they will be in pain, when they can return to work (if ever), and similar worries can cause an enormous amount of stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights.
- Loss of Enjoyment: Some injuries deprive the victim of their ability to participate in physical activities they once enjoyed; such as running, hiking, biking, swimming, and other hobbies or recreational pursuits.
- Loss of Consortium: This relates to the losses suffered by someone close to the victim, such as loss of the ability to maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse. Loss of consortium damages are sometimes awarded directly to the loved one who is affected.
In rare cases when the actions of the party responsible for the accident were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from engaging in similar behaviors. To be awarded punitive damages, it must be shown that the responsible party acted with willful and wanton conduct or actual malice toward the victim. Punitive damages in Virginia are capped at $350,000.
Pursuing Damages in Virginia Accident Cases
Recovering compensation for injuries suffered after an accident in Virginia can be very difficult because of the state’s “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident.
This is a very high bar to clear, and even being found 1% at-fault can be a barrier to obtaining the just compensation you deserve. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to work with a skilled personal injury attorney who understands Virginia law and has a proven ability to successfully pursue damages on behalf of injury victims in these types of cases.
Injured in an Accident in Virginia? Call the Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyers at Olmstead & Olmstead
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it is important to act immediately to protect your legal right to recover compensation. Call Olmstead & Olmstead today at 703-361-1555 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.