Types of Damages in Raleigh Personal Injury Litigation
In Raleigh, damages in personal injury litigation can be categorized into multiple different types. These include, punitive damages, economic damages and non-economic damages. Regardless of the specific form of damages it is always important to consult with a Raleigh personal injury lawyer, to work towards appropriate compensation for personal injury.
Punitive damages are damages that are intended to punish the defendant for their bad conduct. Punitive damages are awarded when a defendant’s conduct was willful or wanton, meaning it was substantially certain to cause harm to somebody. It is not going as far as intentional conduct, but it is close. It is more than just negligence, but less than intentional conduct.
Gross negligence is the same as punitive. Meaning, negligence where the conduct is willful or wanton. In other words, where the conduct is substantially certain or highly likely to lead to harm.
Calculating Punitive Damages
There is a statute that sets forth the factors to be considered in calculating damages. In North Carolina, this includes the ability to pay, the egregiousness of their conduct, whether they have behaved in a similar fashion previously, and various other factors. A jury makes an award of punitive damages based on the egregiousness of the conduct and the defendant’s ability to pay. Probably the most notorious case of punitive damages that everybody knows is the McDonald’s coffee case. In that case the punitive damages award was based on McDonald’s profits on just coffee across all of its franchises for one day.
In North Carolina, there is a different standard of proof to get punitive damages, and the law is very particular about the situations in which punitive damages are available. Lawyers are well trained to handle these situations A punitive damages claim has to be pleaded very specifically in the court documents. Evidence to support that claim then has to be gathered to ensure that it actually gets to a jury for them to decide. That is probably above the capabilities of an average citizen and would require the help of a legal professional.
Economic damages are things on which someone can put a dollar figure, like medical expenses, lost wages, prescription costs, and expenses of that nature. Another example is if someone needs attendant care. Basically, things that can be pointed to as having a certain cost.
Non-economic damages are things like pain and suffering, scarring, or loss of use of part of the body. It does not have a set dollar figure. It is important to work with a personal injury lawyer when dealing with non-economic damages as they will know how to handle them in the litigation context by gathering the appropriate amount of evidence to support the claim for non-economic damages.
In a personal injury setting, non-economic damages would go to compensate the injured person for what they have experienced. The economic damages go towards paying the medical bills, and similar expenses. But there are some injuries that do not ever go away or that the injured person had to deal with for a significant amount of time.
For instance, the pain of a broken bone. Paying that doctor’s bill makes the bill go away, but the pain associated with that broken bone is something the injured person experiences on a daily basis over some period of time, possibly in perpetuity. The non-economic damages are intended to compensate the injured person for that harm.
Non-Economic Damage Caps
Caps on non-economic damages are efforts that various state legislatures, including North Carolina’s, have put in place as part of the total reform effort. They are trying to reduce jury awards. In theory they limit awards by setting caps on non-economic damages and this keeps insurance premiums lower.
In North Carolina, there are caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $500,000.
The same statute that sets the cap also sets some exceptions to the rule. It is possible to get around the cap on the non-economic damages by demonstrating that the injured person suffered disfigurement, loss of use of part of the body, death, or that the medical provider engaged in gross negligence. It would be worthwhile and possible in those situations to attempt to get around the caps.