If you’ve been injured in an accident through the negligence of another party, you might be considering a personal injury lawsuit. One popular question is how much you can expect to get from a personal injury judgment.

There isn’t a guide that says you’re due a certain amount for a broken bone that keeps you out of work for weeks or for a more serious injury that might keep you from working ever again. In fact, there are so many factors that affect the final amount, it takes a lot of work to determine the correct number. So, the first thing to realize is that you shouldn’t trust any personal injury lawyer who gives you a solid amount up front because there is literally no way they can be sure.

For What Kind of Damages Do You File?

You must first determine the damages against which you’re filing a claim. In Tennessee these include compensatory damages (economic damages and non-economic damages) and punitive damages (for pain and suffering).

Compensatory Damages

Damages that fall under the umbrella of compensatory damages directly relate to the personal effect of your injury. The two types considered compensatory damages are economic damages and non-economic damages:

  • Economic damages include an individual’s financial losses, both current and estimated future. Financial losses can be related to medical expenses, paycheck/job loss or damage to a vehicle or other personal property. Also included are expenses related to ongoing medical treatment or future income loss, when injury prevents the plaintiff from making the same income that they did before the injury. This applies even if they can return to work in another field or income level.
  • Non-economic damages are meant to compensate you for non-monetary damages tied to your accident. These can include pain and suffering, emotional distress (mental anguish) and loss of consortium. Damages of this nature are difficult to prove. It helps to keep a detailed record of the losses and to have friends and family members ready to be witnesses in support of the claim.

Punitive Damages in Tennessee

The law does not award punitive damages to compensate for loss, like the compensatory damages. Instead, courts level them to punish the person or entity who caused the injury (the defendant). Awarding punitive damages can also serve as a deterrent to doing the same thing again.

In Tennessee there are many restrictions around filing and collecting punitive damages. The plaintiff must produce untarnished and convincing evidence to courts that the defendant acted in a malicious, fraudulent, or reckless way. Here are those definitions: 

  • Malicious actions require a defendant to consciously intend to harm the victim.
  • The proof of fraud requires plaintiff to show intentional deceit used to leave their victim without their property or legal rights.
  • Proving reckless behavior in a grossly negligent manner that caused harm, which can include firing a gun in public or driving drunk. 

Calculating Damages 

Your best bet to put together the correct demands is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, like those at McKeehan Law Group. To get you ready, we’ll review the basic things that you’ll need to consider. 

Calculating Economic Damages requires hard data, so keep your invoices, receipts, and insurance claim information. Start documenting quickly, so you’ll have everything. Also, you must provide proof of lost wages.

Working with your personal injury lawyer, you compose a demand letter that contains the compensation sought for your personal injury. Usually, your demand letter sets a place to start negotiations by stating an amount a lot higher than the amount with which you’d be satisfied. A common practice is to state an amount of 75% to 100% higher than you need and work from there.  In your demand letter be sure to include a summary of the strongest factors of your claim to encourage negotiation. Don’t forget to include the attorney fees you’re likely to incur as part of any settlement amount. Those bills can add up quickly.

It’s important to note that Tennessee caps most non-economic damage amounts at $750,000. The law allows a higher cap of $1 million for some extremely serious injuries, like amputations, paralysis, or wrongful death of a child.

Tennessee Punitive Damage Cap 

Asking for punitive damages is rarely successful, but you can try. In the circumstances that qualify, it’s important to know some specific information regarding this in Tennessee. The law limits the amount a plaintiff can recover in punitive damages. For punitive damage the Tennessee cap is $500,000 or twice the compensatory damages awarded.

Shared Negligence

Keep in mind that any finding of shared negligence can impact the damages you can recover. Tennessee follows a rule called “modified comparative fault”. If the accident was your fault in any way, the amount will be reduced by the percent of fault found. For example, if a driver pulls out in front of you and causes a wreck and you’re found to be texting at the time, the court might say you bear 25% responsibility for the wreck. In this case you can only collect 75% of the total economic damages you might need. 

If you find yourself contemplating a personal injury lawsuit, call an attorney at McKeehan Law Group right away at (865) 294-8008 or send a message through the website. Remember that you only have one year after the date of the accident to file.