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The most significant issue to most people involved in a personal injury claim is the issue of damages. Obtaining fair and just compensation for injuries you have sustained is the primary concern at Hamstead, Williams & Shook P.L.L.C.. By using our experience and the extensive resources available to us on your behalf, we focus on achieving the highest possible monetary recovery for you.

When a judge or jury finds the defendant liable for wrongful conduct in a personal injury case, the issue then becomes what types of damages are due to the plaintiff, and in what amount. As you know, if you suffer a personal injury you'll likely require medical attention and may need rehabilitation, all of which costs substantial sums of money. You may lose income (and/or have to use up "sick time") because of the injury, and you may continue to lose income while treatment and recovery takes place. You may have sustained property damage to your car and other property. Since you can't drive your vehicle while it is being repaired, you may have to rent one, and car repairs and rentals can cost money. You may also lose the ability to perform various activities of normal daily living, for a while or permanently. You may also endure significant pain and suffering, which may be ongoing as well.

The law permits you to seek recovery after an accident to "make you whole again." The central concept is that you should be compensated in a manner that, as best as the law can arrange, places you back in the same position as you were before the accident. In most personal injury actions the plaintiff must have been injured in some way to be entitled to damages. For example, in negligence cases, we must prove that you suffered injury (some type of physical, emotional, or monetary harm) for the defendant to be required to pay compensation to you. However, with some intentional torts (such as battery, assault, or trespass) we may only have to show that the defendant engaged in the unauthorized conduct, without proving that you suffered actual physical harm, in order to recover damages (though damages in these situations are often nominal absent serious injury).

Three basic kinds of damages are awarded in personal injury cases: compensatory damages, punitive damages, and nominal damages. Each is explained in detail below.

Types of Damages


    Compensatory damages are derived from the word "compensate," meaning "to make up for" or "to make whole." Generally, these damages can be broken up into two sub-categories – actual damages and general damages. Actual damages seek to reimburse a plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses incurred, or financial losses sustained. Actual damages typically include:

    • Medical and hospitalization bills incurred to treat your injuries
    • Wages lost due to work missed while you recuperate
    • Costs of household or nursing help during recovery, including costs of a wheelchair or crutches
    • Cost of rental car or substitute transportation
    • Cost to replace or repair damaged property

    As noted, injured victims can also sue for general damages in addition to actual damages. General damages include the things that can't be precisely documented in dollars spent, including:

    • Pain and suffering endured due to injuries and any subsequent mental anguish
    • Disfigurement resulting from injuries
    • Value of medical expenses you are likely to incur in the future
    • Value of wages you are likely to lose in the future
    • Permanency of injury and resulting pain and suffering
    • Loss of consortium (benefits of relationship)
    • Loss of opportunity

    In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases. Punitive damages are not based on actual injuries sustained. Rather, they are a way to punish the defendant for intentional conduct or gross negligence – behavior that is so egregious that a civil court penalty is warranted in order to deter the defendant from committing the same act again in the future.

    Example: If an amusement park fails to inspect and repair a broken track on one of its rides, knowing of the problem and associated dangers, and severe injury or death results, the plaintiff may ask for hefty punitive damages to penalize the park.

    Nominal damages are minimal damage awards acknowledging that the plaintiff was legally wronged, while at the same time recognizing a lack of evidence establishing that the plaintiff suffered actual damages. Nominal damages are normally very small awards, and are allowed only in cases where actual injury is not required to be shown, such as with intentional torts.

    Example: If you are pushed by someone in such a manner so as to be offensive, thus constituting the tort of battery, but you suffer no actual physical injury, you may be entitled to a minimal award of nominal damages.

    In addition to damages, a successful plaintiff is also able to recover court costs incurred. W. Va. Code § 59-2-8. Court costs include the cost of filing fees, process server fees, deposition transcripts, court transcriptions and translators. Attorneys' fees are generally not included as part of a successful plaintiff's recovery, though there are limited circumstances where procedural rules allow for the successful plaintiff to recover attorneys' fees and expert witness fees.

Types of Compensatory Damages


    You are entitled to compensation if your injuries prevent you from working, causing you to lose income. For example, if you are a landscaper who can't work for a week because you sprained an ankle in an accident, you are entitled to compensation for that week of lost wages. You are also entitled to lost wages if you miss work because of treatment.

    A substantial medical bill is compelling evidence of the seriousness of an injury. Cost of medical care is one of the most important elements that we examine when calculating the potential value of a claim. Obviously, the higher your medical bills, the more damages you are entitled to. In addition, the cost of future medical expenses is an important consideration as well. If you are facing years of treatment that could last a lifetime, then the amount of damages you will be awarded will normally be substantially increased. Proving the amount of future medical care is an area that requires substantial personal injury experience and the use of appropriate experts.

    You are entitled to compensation for any damage to your property in addition to your physical injuries. Car damage typically accounts for most property damage awards. In addition to the loss of value or repair costs associated with your vehicle, the contents of your car may also be damaged in an accident, and you can be reimbursed for damage to this property as well.

    The most personal, and often the most difficult to prove, element of all damages is the pain and suffering that an injured accident victim has to endure. At Hamstead, Williams & Shook P.L.L.C., we take our job of demonstrating this aspect of your damages very seriously. Though pain can be felt only by you, it can be evidenced by reference to the use of painkillers, the frequency and length of your treatment, the types of treatment, and the recovery time. An attorney from Hamstead, Williams & Shook P.L.L.C. will interview you, your spouse if any, and any other witnesses who were familiar with your lifestyle before the accident so that it can be measured in comparison to your lifestyle after the accident. It is important to us to make sure that each and every aspect of your lifestyle that has been compromised is made known to the jury, and proven through witness testimony and other evidence. Your loss of enjoyment of life is a compelling element of your claim that requires careful attention and experienced counsel.

    Though mental anguish and emotional distress are often confused with pain and suffering, they are not the same. It can be quite normal for an accident victim to experience some sort of emotional distress in addition to physical pain. Fear, anxiety, shock, grief, mental suffering, shame and embarrassment are some of the symptoms of mental anguish that can normally result from a traumatic accident.

    A serious accident can leave a victim in serious pain and permanently disabled. Though these types of damages are separately compensable, personal injury laws also permit injured victims or the relatives of a decedent to sue for "loss of consortium," or the loss of love and companionship as a result of an accident. A severe and disabling injury can affect a personal relationship in a variety of ways, as where many of the romantic and recreational activities that two spouses once enjoyed together may no longer be possible.

    In addition to lost wages and future lost wages, you can seek compensation for any lost business opportunity resulting from an accident. It is important to be careful when presenting this type of damages to a jury. For example, not every child who suffered a facial scar in an accident "would have been a movie star." Only where there is ample proof of a lost opportunity should it be presented; otherwise speculative claims may be rejected by a jury and hurt your credibility for recovery on other, more concrete claims.

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In all matters involving personal injury it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the Statute of Limitations. If you or a loved one is a victim of personal injuries, call Hamstead, Williams & Shook P.L.L.C. now at 888 – 298 – 2529. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a Contingent Fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don’t delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. 

The above is not legal advice. That can only come from a qualified attorney who is familiar with all the facts and circumstances of a particular, specific case and the relevant law. See Terms of Use