Mesa AZ | How are damages calculated in a personal injury claim

If you are planning to bring a personal injury claim, you are probably seeking money. You might need money to reimburse you for medical expenses, or to help cover the income you lost while you were in the hospital. Maybe your life has completely changed because of an accident. You have realized that you can no longer do everything that you did before, and you feel you should be compensated for that loss.

In legal terms, what you are seeking are damages. Damages are the typical ‘”remedy” in a personal injury case; in other words, damages are how the legal system repairs the wrong that has occurred. Damages usually consist of a sum of money that the defendant must pay. So, if you bring your claim and win at trial, you will be awarded damages – a sum of money that the defendant must pay in order right his or her wrong against you.

The word damages thus becomes tremendously important to your claim. Not only do you need to prove that the defendant did something that led to your injury, you must also prove that you should be awarded damages because of what the defendant did (or, in some cases, did not do). Of course, you must also be prepared to argue exactly what the damages should be, assuming an award is granted.

With that in mind, it is important to understand how damages will be decided at trial. At the end of the case, after all the evidence has been presented and all the witnesses have been examined, the jury will receive instructions from the judge. After they receive instructions, they will be sent to deliberate and decide the case. One of the instructions the judge will give the jury has to do with damages. In a typical case, it will read something like the following:

If you find the defendant liable to the plaintiff, you must then decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate the plaintiff for each of the following elements of damages proved by the evidence to have resulted from the fault of the defendant:

  1. The nature, extent, and duration of the injury.
  2. The pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and anxiety already experienced, and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future as a result of the injury.
  3. Reasonable expenses of necessary medical care, treatment, and services rendered, and reasonably probable to be incurred in the future.
  4. Lost earnings to date, and any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future.
  5. Loss of love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasures of the marital or parent-child relationship.
  6. Loss of enjoyment of life, that is, the participation in life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before the injury.

Because the jury is instructed to decide damages based only on the factors you see above, it is paramount that you (or your attorney) tailor your case to those factors. You must present medical records and other evidence about the nature and extent of your injury. You must present proof of your lost earnings. You must offer records of your medical expenses. And so on.

However, even if you present a perfect case, there is still no way to predict exactly what your damage amount will be. This uncertainty is just part of life in our system: at the end of everything, even a trial that lasts months, the jury decides. Nothing is absolutely certain. For this reason, it is usually sound strategy to enter into a dialogue with the defendant and try to settle the case before going to trial.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, call 480.461.5300.