Elements of Compensation for Personal Injuries in Maryland – There are a few elements of damages an injured party is supposed to be entitled to under Maryland law. I say “supposed to be” because insurance adjusters (and even judges and jurors, on occasion) do not recognize or fully compensate for these elements.
The main categories of damages recoverable after an auto tort or other personal injury are economic damages and noneconomic damages. “Economic damages” means anything that you can identify and verify with documentation, for instance, medical bills, lost earnings, property damage from estimates of damages, and out of pocket expenses incurred because of the injuries- such as paying someone to mow your lawn or care for your home because you were too injured to do so. “Noneconomic damages” are those which are much more difficult to quantify and come with no specific invoice or receipt. It is often termed “pain and suffering,” but that is oftentimes a phrase that, left undefined, is difficult for those trying to determine the value of that part of one’s damages to understand. The best way I’ve found to describe this essential element of damages is the degree of disruption to the injured party’s everyday living and/or quality of life.
“Noneconomic damages” is typically the element of damages that is of the most value in a person’s case (but, ironically, is the portion of a plaintiff’s case that some plaintiff’s attorneys so rarely define for judges and jurors). The medical billing and lost earnings, to some degree, “speak for themselves,” since there’s a piece of paper that tells the adjuster or trier of fact (judge or jury) what the value of that element of loss is, i.e., it cost this person $1,000 to see this doctor, here’s the bill verifying this is true, so they should get their $1,000 back. But noneconomic damages are separate and distinct from the economic losses and hold more value than the “billed” losses, in almost every case. The most obvious way to demonstrate this is through the example of a crash that has led to the loss of life. The deceased/the estate/their family might have an ambulance bill, a doctor’s bill from the ER and funeral costs, but the loss of the value of that life is, beyond any doubt or reasonable argument, worth more than that $15,000 or so dollars inherent in those bills. Insurance companies and the attorneys hired by the family of the deceased are in the unfortunate position of debating the value of the loss of that life to the deceased and those beneficiaries who are left behind to struggle with the tragedy. But the disparity between a case’s value as it relates to economic damages and noneconomic damages is not limited to just the example of wrongful death.
Noneconomic damages also include the emotional impact an injury has had on one’s life. This starts even before the injury has occurred, in some instances, with an element of damages called “pre-impact fright,” where a person, sometimes in the split-second before the injury-inducing event, realizes something catastrophic is about to happen, where the resulting fear hits. After the accident, even if someone does not specifically treat for psychological damages such as PTSD, depression or anxiety, these subjective emotions and their effects on one’s everyday life should be considered and accounted for by the person/persons evaluating the overall impact of the injury and its resultant value. (If one has treated for these issues, not only should the noneconomic aspect of their case be considered- likely at a higher threshold since the element of damages is documented and verified independently of the person claiming the injury- but they would then also have an economic component to the psychological injury, that is, the billing associated with that treatment.)
As with any case, Person A’s case is and should be evaluated differently than Person B’s case, even if they had the same accident and the same injuries. This is so because it is highly unlikely, and I would argue impossible, that the injury affected these two people in the same exact way. As such, their cases should be considered differently and distinctly. It’s critical that you have an attorney who understands that and practices accordingly, personally evaluating your case, discussing your case with you consistently throughout the process, and negotiating your case with all of these important variables at the forefront of his or her mind. If you’d like to discuss your accident, injury or case, please feel free to contact us at your convenience. We never charge for initial consults, and won’t rush you, no matter how small you think your case may be. Likewise, we’re sensitive to working folks’ hours, so if you can’t speak or meet during the day, we’re happy to schedule time in the evenings or weekends to talk. Call us at 410-793-7040 or email us at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com to scheduled a good time to talk.