How Are Damages Assessed in Illinois Personal Injury Cases?

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The amount of compensation a personal injury victim is entitled to receive is based on the extent of damages that they sustained. Damages are the measurable harm that a person sustained as a result of a personal injury. Calculating these damages involves a careful analysis of the harm the victim suffered. Damages are different in every case.

Purpose of Providing Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Personal injury victims suffer harm because of the negligent actions of the defendant. Although money cannot bring back people to life after a wrongful death or repair their injured body fully, it is the only measure that provides personal injury victims with some type of compensation for the harm they suffered. Money can help pay for medical expenses and other damages that the victim suffered. Monetary compensation is designed to make a personal injury victim whole again after an accident.

Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case

There may be a number of different types of damages awarded in personal injury cases, including the following categories:

Economic Damages

Economic damages are those that correlate to actual financial losses. They can be measured from an economic standpoint. For example, medical expenses are a measurable form of damages. A personal injury victim may miss time off work while he or she goes to medical appointments and recovers. He or she may not ever be able to return to work or may have to take a lower-paying job due to not being able to perform the same labor-intensive work. Medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity and rehabilitation expenses are a few examples of economic damages.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more difficult to measure. They include such losses as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish. These damages acknowledge that a personal injury victim has suffered to some extent beyond the ways that economic damages compensate for.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are different than other types of damages in that they are not intended to compensate the victim. Instead, they are intended to punish the defendant and prevent future behavior of a similar sort from the defendant or others. However, punitive damages are typically reserved for particularly egregious conduct by the defendant. In some states, all or a portion of punitive damages go to a state fund rather than directly to the victim.

Calculating Damages

Determining how much damages to award depends largely on the type of damages. The following mechanisms or others may be used.

Calculating Economic Damages

Economic damages are quantifiable. Therefore, calculating them largely revolves around adding up all of the damages together. For example, if a person suffered $100,000 in medical expenses, $20,000 in rehabilitation expenses and $30,000 in lost income, this portion of the damages would be $150,000.

More complicated calculations may sometimes be involved. For example, if a young person lost years of earning capacity, an economic expert may be retained to calculate the extent of this loss. He or she may consider the victimís age, health, work history, pay rate, promotion history and other factors to determine what he or she would have likely earned had the injury not occurred.

Calculating Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective and are more likely to be subjective. Some insurance companies or juries may multiply the medical expenses by a certain rate, such as 1.5 to 5, depending on the seriousness of the injury. For example, if medical expenses were $100,000 and a 2.5 rate were applied, the non-economic damages would be $250,000. Another formula that is sometimes used is a per diem rate in which the victim receives a daily rate for the pain and suffering that they suffered for each day that they were recovering. Insurance companies may consider recent jury verdicts in the location where a lawsuit may be filed to gauge the potential risk that they would have if they proceed with a lawsuit.

Some states have more specific ways to determine non-economic damages. There may also be maximum amounts that can be applied, such as no greater than non-economic damages are only twice as much as economic damages. If a jury determines the amount of non-economic damages, they may consider what they would feel would be justified damages if they suffered the harm the victim did.

Calculating Punitive Damages

Juries may award high punitive damages, but they may be limited based on state law, which may have maximum caps for these types of damages.

A personal injury lawyer may help determine how much a particular claim might be worth.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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