There are many elements of damages in Georgia Personal Injury cases. Some that come to mind immediately are medical bills and past lost wages. Those are easy to quantify and prove. In other words, they are what they are, they have already happened and there are hard numbers associated with these damages. These types of damages are called hard or special damages. The other extreme in regard to damages is what most people know as pain and suffering. We at Katz Wright & Fleming LLC, LLC tend to stay away from the use of “pain and suffering” because many people have a negative connotation of this phrase. All it really means is: in what ways, other than special damages that you can affix a dollar amount to, has the injury affected the Plaintiff? So, the pain and suffering damages are at the other end of the spectrum from special damages — they are real, but they are for the enlightened conscience of the jury to decide what they are (the jury will not be given any receipts to prove these damages). In between these two extremes are damages that can be proved with expert testimony by using an economist or other expert. One aspect of these damages is proving an inability to work in the future or a decreased capacity to work. Typically, the following questions form a framework when trying to convey the extent of these damages to our client.
1) Has the plaintiff been injured in such a way that her ability to earn and labor has been affected? Not all injuries involve these types of damages, but most serious injuries do.
2) Can the plantiff return to work and perform the same job that she was doing prior to the injury she sustained? If so, the inquiry ends, as the only lost wages would be past lost wages.
3) Is the plaintiff able to perform all or her job duties, or does she now suffer from limitations that stops her from doing all of the job duties that she used to be able to do? It may mean that she is given her old job back, but she is less valuable in that job and, should she loss this job with this employer, she will have less value in the work force.
4) If not, is the plaintiff able to take another job with the same employer, even if it is not the same job that she was doing before she was injured? This may be at a lesser rate of pay and would establish the loss of future earnings from the date of injury until retirement age.
5) Does the plaintiff have a skill set that will allow her to find other work that pays similar to the job that she had before she was injured and is no longer able to perform?
6) Is the plaintiff of an age that she can receive training in a field that will allow her to earn similar pay as the job she had before the injury? If not, she may not be able to secure other jobs, at least not that involve similar skill sets, or any skill sets.
7) Has the plaintiff sustained any physical or mental injuries that prohibit her from taking advantage of any such training? If so, this would limit her ability to earn in the future.
8) How many years of working life does the plaintiff have? This determines, to a certain extent, the value of the damages.
9) Have the injuries sustained in the current lawsuit precluded the plaintiff from performing jobs, other than the job she had prior to her being injured?
10) Is the plaintiff eligible for disability benefits. Is she, in fact, now disabled according to any of the accepted definitions that are commonly used? Is she disabled for social security benefits purposes?
11) Can the plaintiff earn money in addition to any disability benefits that she might be eligible for?
While there are many factors that go into this equation, these questions are a good primer to try to answer in order to help quantify loss of income that the plaintiff may be entitled to as part of her damages in the course of pursing a negligence of personal injury lawsuit. This type of quantification is becoming more and more important in many of the trials that we are involved in. It helps put hard dollars onto a type of damages that, at first blush, may seem hard to quantify.
For over 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling personal injury, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of the negligence of others in the Atlanta, Georgia area. He is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright & Fleming LLC, LLC and regularly handles cases in Atlanta as well as Alpharetta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, Smyrna, Peachtree City, and other cities in Georgia. He is committed to making a difference in his clients’ lives. If you or family member has been seriously injured or died as a result of negligence and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.