What Kind of Damages Can You Recover In A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Categories: personal injury


One of the first questions that many potential plaintiffs have when considering whether to make a personal injury claim or file a personal injury lawsuit is whether it is worth their time and emotional investment, and what kind of damages they are likely to recover.

For some, the pursuit of justice alone may be enough to make a lawsuit worth it. For example, perhaps you were injured as a result of a dangerous condition that has harmed others as well – and you believe it is time to stand up and force a change. That alone may make the lawsuit process worthwhile for you. But for many, the lawsuit process will only make sense where there is sufficient opportunity for a financial recovery.

Thankfully, in personal injury lawsuits in Wisconsin, injured plaintiffs are entitled to recover a wide array of potential damages, depending on the circumstances of their case. Because an attorney will usually cover the costs upfront (to be repaid out of any settlement or verdict amount), the financial burden of a lawsuit usually does not require immediate out-of-pocket expenses for the injured person.

First Things First: Paying Attorney Fees in North Central Wisconsin

Before delving into the types of damages available to personal injury plaintiffs, it is important for potential plaintiffs to understand that our firm generally takes personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you usually do not risk upfront attorneys fees or out-of-pocket expenses while you wait to see if your case is successful.

In sharp contrast to cases where attorneys get paid by “billable hours,” contingency-fee cases mean that an attorney only receives fees if successful in your case. Thus, their fee is contingent upon your success. If they win, they earn a portion of the money that you recover in the lawsuit as their fee – rather than billing you along the way for their time, expertise, or any expenses they may incur as they prepare your case.

The last thing an injured person needs when trying to recover and juggle mounting medical expenses is more bills, and the contingency fee arrangement is set up to avoid that.

Recovering for the Injury You Experienced

When you are injured in an accident, or as a result of another’s negligence, you can be “damaged” in many different ways. You may have:

  • physical injuries that require medical treatment or ongoing care
  • mental health injuries from the trauma of what you experienced
  • lost wages at work or lost financial opportunities
  • other out-of pocket expenses incurred as a result of the negligence

These are all known as compensatory damages. In some situations, you may also have punitive damages. Punitive damages are a special category of damages available to punish the defendant for particularly egregious action. They only apply in Wisconsin if the defendant acted maliciously or intentionally disregarded your rights: for example, if a defendant intentionally rammed into your vehicle, rather than accidentally hitting it while driving. While punitive damages can be very significant, they are rarely available. Compensatory damages are much more common.

Medical Expenses and Physical Pain

One of the most common categories of damages for personal injury plaintiffs is medical or related expenses from physical injuries. Depending on whether you have health insurance and the extent of your injuries, medical bills can quickly mount into the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In a personal injury case, you can attempt to recover medical expenses that are related to your injury. So while you will not be able to seek compensation for your dentist’s bill after only your hand is injured in a crash, you can claim the costs related to your hand, like doctor’s bills, surgery, x-rays, medication, physical therapy, and mileage to and from appointments.

Personal injury plaintiffs can also make claims for future anticipated medical expenses. For many plaintiffs, their injuries may not have fully resolved by the time they get to trial, or they may be diagnosed with a lingering back or neck injury that is anticipated to cause problems for years to come. In these scenarios, you may use experts and prior medical bills to anticipate future medical costs and seek recovery for those costs as well.

Pain and Suffering

In Wisconsin, personal injury plaintiffs may also claim damages for pain and suffering. These damages are compensation for the less tangible aspects of an injury, such as the emotional distress you have suffered, the pain you’ve endured, and the stress and loss of enjoyment the injury has brought to your life.

Because there are rarely clear bills to illustrate pain and suffering damages, they can be harder to quantify. Wisconsin courts and juries will typically look to factors such as:

  • the extent of the injuries you suffered,
  • how long-lasting the impact of your injuries will be,
  • the ways in which your normal daily activities, your relationships with others, and your enjoyment of life have been impaired,
  • the manner in which any resulting disfigurement (like scarring, etc.) will impact you,
  • the humiliation you have experienced in relying on others to help you perform everyday functions in your recovery, and/or
  • how your injuries have affected your ability to work or make a living.

Juries cannot be given formulas in order to calculate pain and suffering damages, so it will be up to you and your lawyer to decide what value to place on your damages and request to a jury–if any: some people just choose to leave it up to the jury. The defendant–the responsible party you are asking to compensate you for your damages–will usually try to make this number as small as possible.

Lost Wages

Personal injury plaintiffs can also claim lost wages and loss of the ability to earn wages in the future (called “loss of earning capacity”). If you miss time from work as a result of your injuries, or if your ability to work in your chosen profession will be impacted forever, you will have a basis for these claims.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You may also be able to seek reimbursement for your out-of-pocket expenses. Keep track of things like clothing or personal belongings that were ruined in the crash, any special equipment you have to buy while you recover, or any money you spend on tasks/services you would normally complete on your own (like lawn mowing, snow shoveling, house cleaning, etc.) that you have to hire out during your period of recovery.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

Wisconsin Attorneys Helping You Get Your Life Back On Track

If you have recently been injured in an accident or as a result of another’s negligence, you may have a strong personal injury claim. An attorney can help you make sure you receive the full array of damages that you deserve in order to help you get your life back on track.

At Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C., our personal injury attorneys can discuss your damages options with you, and help you determine the possible value of your claim. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, contact our Wausau, WI offices online or at (715) 842-2291.