What Are General Damages, and How Do They Affect the Amount of a Personal Injury Settlement?

Posted on

You might hear tall tales at a neighborhood barbecue, in the barbershop, or in the break room at work about a friend of a friend who became a multimillionaire after being awarded a huge settlement in a car accident lawsuit.  Clearly, personal injury settlements take into account more than just the medical bills associated with the injury.  The medical bills can be expensive, even for people with insurance, as you have likely experienced if you have ever had an illness or injury serious enough to require a hospital stay.  Medical bills alone, though, are not usually what leads to the biggest payouts in personal injury settlements. It is the combination of quantifiable expenses and a factor called the general damages multiplier that accounts for the really big sums being awarded in personal injury cases.


How Non-Economic Damages Affect Personal Injury Settlement Amounts

In personal injury lawsuits, non-economic damages are monies awarded by the court for losses that do not correspond directly to an amount of actual monetary loss.  They can be things like emotional distress, physical pain, or loss of the companionship of a person who died in the accident. Although it is not possible to quantify a person’s pain, personal injury attorneys give evidence of concrete ways in which the accident affected the plaintiff’s life.  For example, if, before the accident, the plaintiff was a competitive rock climber and was engaged to be married, but the accident left him unable to walk, much less participate in athletic activities and his fiancée broke off their engagement after the accident, the court will take that into account.

Sometimes courts use the general damages multiplier, a number between 1.5 and five, to compensate for ways the accident affected the plaintiff’s life, other than just past and future medical bills and lost income.  Long-term physical pain and emotional distress resulting from the accident can be a reason for the court to multiply the economic damages by up to five when determining the settlement amount. You might have heard that if the plaintiff wins a personal injury case, he or she receives a settlement equal to three times the medical bills.  That is too much of an oversimplification, but it does allude to a truth, namely that courts sometimes do multiply the economic damages in proportion to how much the injury has disrupted the life the plaintiff used to enjoy before the accident.


Evidence Makes All the Difference

It is not enough to say, “This accident ruined my life, and it is all the defendant’s fault.”  You must prove two things, namely that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the accident and also that the plaintiff’s life has changed in specific ways since the accident.  It is important to show documentation of the changes that do not correspond directly to dollar amounts, such as anxiety and missed opportunities. A personal injury lawyer can help you with this.


Contact Walton Telken Attorneys at Law About St. Louis Car Accident Cases

A skilled personal injury lawyer can help you get a fair settlement if you have been injured in a car accident.  Contact Walton Telken Attorneys at Law in the St. Louis area to discuss your case.

WaltonTelken Logo Final760

Get in touch with us today to get started with your FREE case review. We’re only a call, click, or short drive away.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.