In Missouri, individuals injured through the negligence or recklessness of others in a personal injury case have the ability to seek compensation for both “tangible damages” and “intangible damages.” “Economic” or “tangible damages” are those things that can be calculated or identified, such as lost wages, lost earning capacity, past medical expenses, and future medical expenses.
We have provided two posts to explain the difference between both types of damages. This is part one of two. For more on “intangible damages” or “non-economic damages” please watch for our post next week.
First off, what are damages? Damages are something an injured person receives, through a settlement or jury verdict, to compensate them for the harms they suffered a result of that injury. In the American civil justice system, we use money to compensate people as damages. Below are the types of “economic” or “tangible damages” you can receive monetary compensation for in a Missouri personal injury case.
- Medical expenses: If you are injured by someone else’s actions, then under Missouri law that person is responsible for all of the medical care you received related to that injury. Although this seems fairly straightforward, many cases involve people who have pre-existing arthritis (or “degenerative disc disease”) or some other medical history that complicates their demand for medical expenses. As a result, insurance company employees will scour all of your medical records to see if there is something in your past which will justify their denial of paying you for your past medical expenses. Your attorney’s job is to fight these invasions of privacy and fight for your compensation for these past medical expenses.
- Billed vs. Paid: In Missouri, the attorney for the insurance company is permitted to show the jury the amount your insurance “paid” for the medical care you received (or the amount they will claim you paid). Since these adjustments typically do not reflect the true value of the medical care you received, your attorney can also show the amount “billed” by the medical provider before any adjustments. This is the dispute that is often referred to as “Billed vs. Paid.” You will want to work closely with your attorney to see what his/her strategy is when it comes to your medical bills and whether you should submit them to the jury.
- Future medical expenses: If your injuries require future medical care, then the at-fault party is also responsible to cover your future medical care for those injuries as well. Just like with medical expenses, insurance company employees and their attorneys will fight to show that these medical expenses are unnecessary for your injuries. Because the injured party is the one bringing the demand or lawsuit, that party has the burden to show that the future medical care is medically necessary under the law. In a personal injury case, we will do that with the testimony of a medical expert which could include your treating physician or another independent expert.
- Lost Wages: If you are injured and are unable to work, the at-fault party is responsible for the wages you lost. In Missouri, we can prove this through pay stubs and employment records, or through some other documentation provided by your employer. You do not need to provide an insurance adjuster with your tax records, as these contain private information that the insurance company does not need to see!
- Lost Earning Capacity: In addition to lost wages, another issue in personal injury cases is whether the person’s injuries limit their ability to earn income in the future. Since the injured person making the demand with the adjuster or to a jury has the burden to show future lost earnings, the person will likely need a vocational rehabilitation expert, economist, or life care expert to discuss what types of limitations the person has. In a personal injury case, we rely upon these experts to give us a full picture of the injured person’s future economic opportunities, in addition to past and future medical expenses.
As you can see, there are a variety of damages that an injured person can claim in a personal injury case. To ensure you get the compensation you deserve, make sure you demand compensation for all of your tangible and intangible damages. If you have any questions or would like to discuss how our firm can help you with your personal injury case, do not hesitate to contact our office.