Economic damages are tangible and easy to count. Non-economic damages, by contrast, are intangible and relatively difficult to quantify (pain and suffering damages, for example). Below are some examples of economic damages.
First Things First: What Is MMI?
MMI, or Maximum Medical Improvement, is the point beyond which your condition will probably not improve any further. If you are lucky, MMI coincides with a full recovery so that you are “just like new” again. If you are not so lucky, you will suffer some form of long-term or even lifelong disability.
The legal significance of MMI is that it is difficult for you to calculate your damages until you reach this point because you are still incurring losses. In particular, since you are still undergoing medical treatment, it is difficult to say with certainty how much your medical bills will eventually amount to.
Types of Economic Damages
You can seek reimbursement for any tangible financial loss that arises directly from your injury. You can also seek reimbursement for intangible losses as non-economic damages, but these losses are beyond the scope of this article.
Past And Present Medical Expenses
Past and present medical expenses are the most basic form of economic damages. They are also among the easiest to prove since your healthcare provider will send you periodic medical bills.
The only major stumbling block here is that your insurance company might question some of your medical expenses as unnecessary. Be careful about utilizing “fringe” medical treatments such as homeopathy because an insurance company is likely to reject these expenses.
Hospital Bills, Surgery, and Doctor’s Appointments
These expenses are what people think of when they hear the term “medical expenses.” They can add up to thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Medical Testing and Diagnosis
X-rays, MRIs, etc., are all part of the medical treatment process, even if they don’t reveal anything useful.
Pharmaceuticals, at least to the extent that your doctor prescribes or recommends them, count as part of your medical treatment expenses. Your insurance company might question “alternative medicine” herbal remedies.
Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy
You might need years of physical and occupational therapy to recover to your pre-accident state or reach MMI. These expenses, because they could last for years, might cost more than all your other medical expenses combined.
Future Medical Expenses
If your injuries result in a condition that requires continuing medical care (epilepsy after a head injury, for example), you will need to claim future medical expenses. These expenses can be notoriously difficult to estimate. You will need a lawyer, and perhaps even a medical expert, to estimate them with any precision.
Past and Present Lost Earnings
Unless your injuries were minor, you missed work because of them. Not only did you probably spend time in the hospital, but you also probably spent time at home recuperating.
Future Lost Earnings
Your injuries may have rendered it impossible for you to return to your previous occupation. If they are serious enough, you might find yourself unable to work. Such a state of affairs will require you to estimate and prove your future lost earnings. This may require the help of an expert. The younger you are, the more your future lost earnings are likely to be worth.
If you are permanently disabled because of a slip and fall accident or a motorcycle accident, you might need to renovate your home to work around your disability. You might need to install an elevator, for example, to access the second floor. These kinds of renovations can be surprisingly expensive.
Children have needs that you must attend to. What do you do, however, when your needs are even greater than theirs? You put them in childcare, of course, and that could cost you a lot of money.
It’s difficult to perform housekeeping expenses while bedridden or otherwise disabled due to your injuries. Nevertheless, hiring a housekeeper to perform these services can get expensive. These expenses are also part of your economic damages, and you can demand reimbursement for them.
Incidental Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Do you need to pay for parking every time you visit the doctor? These and similar out-of-pocket expenses may seem trivial, but you are still entitled to reimbursement. Keep your receipts.
Funeral and Burial Expenses (Wrongful Death)
Funeral and burial expenses can cost you thousands of dollars that you might not be able to afford. If your loved one died in an accident caused by someone else, a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party for these and other losses might be appropriate. If the deceased victim’s probate estate paid these expenses, a wrongful death lawsuit can seek reimbursement for the estate.
Loss of Support and Services (Wrongful Death)
“Loss of support and services” is an element of wrongful death damages that you can use to seek reimbursement for the value of services that the deceased victim provided. A stay-at-home homemaker may not have earned a salary, but their services are still worth something.
Hire a Lawyer, Especially If You Are Claiming Future Damages
If you ask for too little, your compensation will be inadequate even if you get everything you ask for. The problem is that once you sign a settlement agreement or the jury announces a verdict, you won’t be able to come back and ask for more money. You have to get it right the first time. For that, you are probably going to need a personal injury attorney.