What Kind of Damages Can I Ask for in a Trial?
What Kind of Damages Can I Ask for in a Trial? —Litigation Attorney, Payton Hoover, explains how recent changes in North Carolina law determine what you can submit as damages in court. If you are the victim of a serious accident, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at 704-333-0885 or schedule a free consultation today.
What are Damages?
This is Payton Hoover, litigation attorney with Campbell & Associates, here today to talk a little bit about damages. A question I quite frequently get asked is, “If I go to court, what am I allowed to ask the jury for?”
Essentially, in most cases there are three things, the first being medical bills—that includes prescription drugs. The second is any time you’ve lost for work or you’ve lost wages. And the third is pain and suffering. I’ll go through each of those very briefly here.
1. How to Submit Medical Bills as Damages
That’s the amount of the medical bills that are reasonably necessary to treat the injury that you sustained.
It used to be that you’d submit the full amount of the bill, whatever the hospital or doctor charged you. That would be the amount that you would be able to submit to a jury.
On October 1, 2011, as a part of some sweeping tort reform here in North Carolina, the law changed. Now you’re allowed to ask for the amount of the medical bill that was either paid or that is outstanding.
So when health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid pay on a bill, there is always an adjustment to that bill. They never pay the full amount.
The amount that’s adjusted off that bill—under the old law—you could ask for it, or you could submit to the jury. Under this law, you cannot.
The amount that you are allowed to submit to a jury is the amount that was paid either by you, Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance and the amount that’s still owed, if there is an outstanding balance.
This is important because it affects that third element of damages, which is pain and suffering. Whether right or wrong, juries tend to equate pain and suffering with medical bills. The lower the insurance company can get those medical bills, the better chance they have of getting a fairly low verdict when it comes to pain and suffering, that third element of damages.
There are ways to combat this. It’s important that you speak with an attorney to come up with a game plan, especially if your medical bills—because you have Medicaid or Medicare—are relatively low.
2. How to Submit Lost Wages as Damages
The second element of damages is the lost wages. That can include time that you’ve missed going to doctor’s appointments, and it also includes time where you’ve missed work because a doctor has taken you out of work because you’re unable to perform your daily duties.
It is important that you keep track of this, and that you also have your employer keeping track of it and substantiating it for you through some form of affidavit. Again, something that an attorney can also help you out with.
3. How to Submit Pain and Suffering as Damages
The third element is the pain and suffering, and that’s the part where we don’t have a receipt. It’s ultimately whatever 12 jurors come up with, and a lot of times, they’re equating your pain and suffering with your medical bills.
It shouldn’t be that way because there’s no correlation there whatsoever, but it’s an easy thing for them to do. It’s an easy thing for them to say, “Well, he or she has $5,000 in medical bills. Let’s put another $5,000 on it for pain and suffering and get out of here.”
When a lot of times, the pain and suffering portion of the claim is substantially more valuable than whatever was paid for the medical treatment. But that’s where we are here in North Carolina.
In South Carolina, they operate under the old way of doing things here in North Carolina where you are allowed to submit the entire amount of the bill, and the at-fault party does not get the benefit of you happening to have health insurance or Medicare or Medicaid.
Until next time, be safe out there. If you run into somebody that isn’t, feel free to give us a call. We’re licensed in North and South Carolina, and we’re here to help. Thank you.
Contact a North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been in accident as a result of another person’s negligence, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Campbell & Associates are here to help. We are dedicated to protecting your right to full and fair compensation. Call 704-333-0885 or schedule a free consultation today.