Damages are money compensation awarded to a person who has any past, present or future injury caused by another person. In North Carolina, these damages typically can include medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, scars or disfigurement, loss of use of a part of the body and permanent injury. In some situations punitive damages and damages for loss of consortium may also be awarded. No personal injury case is like another and the amount of the types of damages that may be available and the amount of damages that may be awarded are heavily dependent upon the facts of your particular case and applicable law. In addition, it is not uncommon for a jury to reach a compromise verdict on damages when there is a dispute over the cause of your injury.
Laws governing the types of damages that may be awarded in a personal injury case and the rules of evidence used to prove those damages are complex. Settling a personal injury claim before an attorney has an opportunity to carefully determine what damages may be available is not recommended.
A claim for damages due to personal injury may include many of the following types of damages:
- Pain and Suffering – Damages for pain and suffering are intended to compensate an injured party for the physical pain resulting from the injuries as well as the mental distress accompanying the physical injuries. There is no formula for determining these damages and, in North Carolina, the jury is instructed to apply their logic and common sense to the evidence to arrive at fair compensation for pain and suffering. In some unusual factual situations, a Defendant’s conduct can be so outrageous that damages may be awarded solely for emotional distress when there is no actual physical injury.
- Medical Expenses – Expenses incurred in the care, treatment and hospitalization of an injured person can be compensated by damages in a personal injury claim. These expenses include hospital charges, doctor bills, drug bills, physical therapy and medical supplies.
- Loss of Earnings – If a person is working at the time of injury, and loses time from work as a result of the injury, damages may include compensation for past, present and future lost earnings. Even if the injured person were not working at the time of injury, that person may be able to recover damages for loss of the ability to earn money in the future as a result of the injury. In some personal injury cases, evidence of business losses may be admissible to determine lost earnings or damage to the ability to earn money.
- Scars or Disfigurement – Some injuries leave a permanent scar or disfigurement and compensation for that permanent injury may be included as damages in a personal injury claim.
- Loss of Use of Part of the Body – In some cases, a person may lose a part of the body, such as an arm or leg, or lose the use of a part of their body, either temporarily or permanently. These damages may be included by a jury in its award of damages.
- Permanent Injury – Some of the effects of an injury may continue throughout an injured person’s life and a jury may award damages for the injury over the Plaintiff’s life expectancy.
- Loss of Consortium – Often times a serious personal injury can have an effect on the social and physical relationship between the injured party and their spouse. This disruption of the marital relationship is called a “loss of consortium.” Damages for loss of consortium are intended to compensate either the spouse or the injured party for the impact of the injury on their sexual relations, companionship and affection.
- Punitive Damages – Punitive damages may be awarded where the conduct that caused the injury was outrageous or aggravated. North Carolina law only permits punitive damages to be awarded for cases in which fraud, malice or willful or wanton conduct are present and punitive damages cannot exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater. The $250,000 limit does not apply to a claim for punitive damages arising from a defendant operating a motor vehicle while impaired.