What damages can be awarded to me for a personal injury claim?
If you are injured due to an act of negligence or other tort (torts are violations of standards of care that result in injury, such as an injury caused by someone being negligent, a product defect causing an injury or an intentional act such as an assault), you can be awarded damages for the medical bills incurred to treat your injuries, lost wages or income due to your injuries, compensation for your pain and suffering and mental anguish due to your injuries, compensation for any impairment due to your injuries and compensation for any disfigurement resulting from your injuries.
The first and many times most important element of damages is likely to be compensation to reimburse you or pay for medical bills you incur to treat your injuries. In an auto collision, you may injure your neck or back or suffer an injury or fracture to some other part of your body. The law generally allows you to seek an award of damages to compensate you for the cost of medical treatment for the injuries you incurred in the collision. Technically, you are entitled to be compensated for the "reasonable cost of necessary medical treatment." You are entitled to be reimbursed for the medical bills you incurred prior to any settlement or judgment and also for those medical bills that in "reasonable medical probability" you will incur for treatment of those injuries in the future.
Generally, the past medical bills are easy to determine. Complications in determining the amount of past medical bills necessary to treat your injuries occur when you have a pre-existing condition that was being treated or where your treatment includes unrelated other medical conditions.
Future medical bills are generally harder to establish. In order to prove future medical bills, a qualified medical provider will have to establish the necessity and the probability of the future treatment. Even then, it is not a guarantee since the term probability means that there is some chance that no treatment will be necessary. Generally, future medical bills have to be discounted (or reduced in amount) by the delay into the future in which they will be paid. In other words, if medical expenses are expected to be incurred 20 years from now, an economist will have to calculate and testify about what amount today, held in an interest bearing account, will pay for the medical bills in the future. (The economist should also take into account the effect of inflation on future medical costs and both increase and reduce the future medical expenses to "present value.")
In summary, although it would seem simple to determine the medical expenses that should be awarded to someone injured in a "tort" claim, in only the most insignificant injury claims is that the case. In claims involving significant medical treatment and cost and potential future medical treatment, the determination and proof of such medical bills is the task for an expert in personal injury law.