If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. However, the amount of damages you can recover depends on many factors.
Courts calculate the amount of damages by considering such factors as the severity of the injuries, the expense of medical care, how the injuries impacted the victim’s quality of life and the degree of fault of each party involved.
In this post, we will explain how Illinois courts calculate damages in personal injury cases and what types of damages you can claim.
Types of damages
In general, there are two types of damages in personal injury cases: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those that can be easily quantified and documented, such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage and other out-of-pocket expenses. Non-economic damages are not easily quantified and documented. These include intangible things like pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of consortium.
In some cases, you may also be awarded punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant for their intentional or reckless conduct and deter them from repeating it. Punitive damages are not based on your actual losses, but on the defendant’s behavior and financial status.
However, punitive damages are rare in Illinois and are only available in cases where the defendant acted with fraud, malice or willful and wanton disregard for your rights.
How Illinois courts calculate damages
Illinois courts use jury instructions to guide the jurors on how to calculate damages in personal injury cases.
The instruction states that the plaintiff has the burden of proving their damages by a preponderance of the evidence and that the jurors should consider the following factors, including the nature and extent of the injury, the disability or disfigurement resulting from the injury and the pain and suffering experienced and reasonably certain to be experienced in the future.
Necessary medical care costs, both those already paid for and those estimated to be needed in the future are factored in as well. This is in addition to the loss of earnings and earning capacity, loss of society (the benefits of a family relationship), shortened life expectancy and the increased risk of future harm.
The Illinois jury instruction also states that the jurors should not reduce or increase the damages because of sympathy or prejudice for either party or because of speculation or guesswork. The jurors should award an amount that will fairly and reasonably compensate the plaintiff for their losses.