People hurt themselves in situations that aren't their fault all the time. Maybe you slip on your neighbor's walk because they didn't clean it properly or fall at a store because they did clean… but forgot to put up "wet floor" signs. It could be that a defective product or mechanical issue in your care led to an injury. Whatever the case, here's what most of us tend to do if it isn't life-threatening: shrug it off and move on with our lives or just pay for any help we need ourselves because we think we're to blame. But this is something that might not happen quite so often if more people realized all of the costs that are potentially involved in treating injuries and what kind of money they might be able to get if they sought compensation.
First, let's talk about the costs to you – many of which you may not have even thought about.
Medical bills. From hospital visits to follow-up appointments to prescription drugs, many injuries can be incredibly costly. Even worse, you might not know what the real costs are going to be for months or longer because of pain or other issues that linger and require you to continue to seek help.
Lost time. Unfortunately, time doesn't just stop when you have to visit your doctor or go through rehab, and every second you spend dealing with your injury is time that could have gone towards something positive.
Missed wages. You can't work if you're laid up, dealing with extreme pain, or constantly needing to go to your doctor. Some injuries cause people to
miss work for weeks, months, or even have to change careers because they simply aren't able to do the work anymore.
Physical malfunctions. Sometimes, when you're hurt, your body just doesn't work the way you've become accustomed to. Depending on the type of injury,
sexual dysfunction is fairly common. Worse yet is that fact that this can often exacerbate other problems.
Loss of "consortium."This lawyerly term is another way of saying that you can't have sex with your significant other or enjoy their company because of your injury. In some states, compensation can even be awarded to children who are unable to interact with their injured parents.
Physical and mental distress. Are you stressed out over your injury? Do you wake up at night because of the pain? These are things that far too many people simply ignore because they think that they are normal or believe they'll just go away on their own if given enough time.
Property. "Personal injury" doesn't necessarily mean that you were the only thing that sustained damage. Cars and bikes can be totaled. Expensive clothes can be torn. And even your grandmother's watch can break. Often we lose sight of these kinds of losses because we're so focused on our own discomfort.
The list of ways to get compensated for your injury is exactly the same as the above list. If you can show that you "paid" for the injury in any of the above ways and that someone else was at fault, it's possible that you will be able to get money back.
Many times, personal injury victims are able to receive compensation by claiming losses in several of the above categories. Some things, like medicalbills and lost wages, come with hard numbers attached that can help guide you when you file your claim. For example, if your yearly salary is $50,000 and you couldn't work for a year, trying to get $50,000 in compensation just in that one area is entirely reasonable.
Damages for things like physical distress and "consortium,"however, are far more open to interpretation. You might believe that you deserve $5 million, but the judge or jury can lower that to $5,000; however, the reverse is also true, and a number of judges and juries have given claimants more than they asked for because they felt it was deserved.
The one thing that you do need to do to get the compensation you deserve, though, is actually go after it. No one is going to just offer you money when they don't have to. Fighting for the compensation you deserve is a way to both ease your own burden and make sure no one else has to go through
the same suffering.
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphy. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida "SuperLawyer"—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend's "Legal Elite."