What Damages Can I Recover in a Personal Injury Case?

Money for personal injury case

Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Medical Expenses

Medical Expenses can be recovered. However, there is more here than meets the eye. The law says you are entitled the entire amount of the bill. However, there must be some evidence the charges are fair and reasonable for this geographic area. A paid bill is prima facie evidence of fairness, but it can be challenged.

First of all, no mention of insurance can be made at trial. So the jury is often wondering “didn’t insurance pay some of this bill?” Further, while you may have a completely paid bill, that does not stop the defense from arguing that the actual fair value of that bill is far less (many defense attorneys retain experts who state that the fair value of a bill is what Medicare would have paid).

Second, there is a debate among trial judges on what bill gets submitted to the jury. If you have a $10,000 hospital bill, but Blue Cross pays $4,000 on its reduced and negotiated rate, does the bill showing a “paid” $10,000 bill come in to evidence, the same bill showing only $4,000 paid, or something else? It depends on who you are assigned to as a trial judge!

Third, if you have unpaid bills, you will either have to have a doctor or billing expert testify to the fairness and reasonableness of the charges. Many doctors, however, are not aware of the charges reasonableness and will not be able to opine about their own bills!

Needless to say, you must either take an evidence deposition of the doctor or bring him or her in to trial to testify. In both cases, you must pay the professional fees for the doctors, which can often run into the $1,000s of dollars per hour!

Future Medical Expenses

You can recover the costs for future medical expenses. For instance, if a doctor testifies that his patient will need a hip replacement within the next 20 years, then you can reasonably ask for the cost of that procedure. However, you need the doctor to provide that opinion within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, and you need some evidence of the future costs of the surgical procedure. It cannot be a doctor who says a patient “might” need some hip procedure “down the line.” This also does not preclude the defense from contesting the need for and/or cost of said procedure.

Similarly, a plaintiff can recover for the costs of future care. An example would be a person paralyzed in an industrial incident. With proper testimony, the costs of a wheelchair ramp, around the clock caretaker, and many more costs could be recoverable.

Wage Loss

Lost wages can be recovered. This means that even if you are paid for sick days, personal days, vacation days, short term- or long term-disability, you are still entitled to the value of the days you missed. If you make $500 a day and miss 10 days of work, but are paid sick and vacation days, you still are entitled to the $5,000 in lost wages.

Depending upon the situation, the plaintiff may be required to present proof of his or her earnings, such as tax returns for the year or so before the incident, as well as after.

Pain & Suffering

This is one element of “non-economic” damages that you will often hear the phony “tort reform” advocates talking about trying to limit.

While P&S is amorphous, think of what it is worth to be in pain for a month following a car crash. What is it worth to have to use crutches for two months following foot surgery? How about not sleeping for two years due to excruciating and intractable headaches? These are all figures a talented lawyer can help frame for the jury to make them more tangible.

Loss of a Normal Life

Loss of a normal life is also a “non-economic” type of damage. But here is one way to think about this element. What is it worth to you to pick up your children or play with them at the park? How much would you want if you could never drive again? What would your life be like if you could never hold your wife’s hand again?

You get the picture. There is simply no way to put a price or cap on these things, which is exactly the point!

In more “run of the mill” cases, Loss of a Normal Life might encompass being unable to walk without a limp for 2 months, being unable to do crossword puzzles or Sudoku for a week, not being able to sleep through the night for 5 weeks, or being unable to do one’s hair or make up for a month. These are the real world elements of damages I am getting people compensated for regularly.


  • There are several types of damages you can recover
  • It takes some jumping through hoops to actually recover what you have a right to recover
  • To do this, you need a skilled lawyer

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited.

Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.

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