Calculating What Can't Be Calculated: A Look at Damages for Injury and Wrongful Death
When an accident results in property damage, it is relatively easy to calculate the appropriate amount of monetary damages. There are some options to consider (i.e. cost of repair, cost of replacing the item if it cannot be repaired, value of item at the time of complete loss), but there are many resources that can provide a solid guide to the amount of monetary loss. Calculating damages becomes much more difficult when an accident results in a major injury or claims a life. As your Panama City injury law firm, we work hard to get our clients as much compensation as possible, even while knowing that money can never truly offer a substitute for a lost limb or untimely death.
Newlywed Panama City Couple In Tragic Car Accident
Tasha Bradford and Buck Storey said "I do" just a few short weeks ago on October 19th in Panama City. Family and friends spoke of the love shared by the newlyweds, who were returning from their honeymoon at a resort in Gatlinburg when tragedy struck, according to WJHG. While driving on I-185 near La Grange, a Georgia town between Atlanta and Columbus, their car veered off the roadway and flipped three times. Storey died at the scene, and paramedics airlifted Bradford to Columbus Hospital before transferring her to Grady Memorial, an Atlanta hospital. The newlywed and newly-widowed bride arrived in critical condition, and doctors were forced to amputate her right leg in order to save her life. A fund has been set up to help with medical bills and Storey's final expenses.
The Question of Damages
We cannot comment specifically on the Storey/Bradford incident, but this case raises two linked questions. Suppose a court concluded someone else was wholly responsible for the accident and resulting harm, what is the appropriate measure of damages for the loss of a leg? What about the loss of a life?
Personal Injury Cases
Damages in a personal injury case, such as a claim for loss of a limb, fall into three main categories:
- Economic (repayment for current and future financial costs including medical bills, lost income, transportation expenses).
- Non-Economic (payment for non-financial losses such as money for pain & suffering).
- Punitive (designed to punish the wrongdoer rather than compensate the claimant).
Collectively, the first two types of damages are called "compensatory damages." An experienced attorney can help provide an estimate of potential recovery for the non-economic losses based on prior verdicts and settlement amounts. Obviously, severe and long-lasting injuries such as a lost limb generally result in higher non-economic damages given the huge impact such injuries have on a claimant's life. Punitive damages are usually only awarded in cases involving particularly heinous or egregious contact (i.e. intentionally running over a pedestrian in a walkway) and are capped by Florida Statute §768.73 to $500,000, or 3 times the amount of compensatory damages.
Wrongful Death Cases
In Florida, damages in a wrongful death case are determined by Florida Statute Section 768.21, a part of the Wrongful Death Act. The Act spells out considerations for calculating damages based on the specific relationship between the claimant (i.e. the person seeking damages) and the decedent (i.e. the person who was killed). Available damages for certain covered relationships include: the loss of support and services; pain and suffering; loss of companionship; lost earnings; and final expenses. In making these calculations, the court refers to actuarial tables to calculate both the claimant and decedent's life expectancies.
The Importance of Legal Counsel
Ultimately, the law provides guidelines when it comes to monetary damages for non-monetary losses, but there are a limited number of hard and fast rules. Recovering the maximum amount of damages requires the help of a skilled lawyer. This is yet another reason why injured or grieving parties should not sign any agreements before contacting legal counsel and should not attempt to navigate the system on their own. With his education and experience representing plaintiffs in both personal injury and wrongful death matters, Panama City accident attorney Wes Pittman is proud to help Floridians recover the money they deserve.