More Than Medical Bills: Full and Fair Compensation in Virginia Personal Injury Cases

Most people who are injured through no fault of their own understand that they can make a claim to recover money from the responsible party’s insurance company.  Unfortunately, many people are unaware of all the factors that must be considered before settling their claim.  Insurance companies often take advantage of this lack of understanding to convince injured claimants that they should accept a settlement that accounts for only a portion of their damages.  This can be a big mistake for an injured person. The following article explains all of the compensable damages under Virginia law.

Years of court cases involving personal injury claims have established a list of compensable injuries.  This list has been compiled into a model instruction that is read to every jury in a personal injury case.[1]   In Virginia, a jury is directed to consider the following:

  1. Any bodily injuries you sustained and their effect on your health according to their degree and probable duration;
  2. Any physical pain and mental anguish you suffered in the past and any that may reasonably be expected to suffer in the future;
  3. Any disfigurement or deformity and any associated humiliation or embarrassment;
  4. Any inconvenience caused in the past and any that probably will be caused in the future;
  5. Any medical expenses incurred in the past and any that may be reasonably expected to occur in the future;
  6. Any earnings lost because you were unable to work at your calling; and
  7.  Any loss of earnings and lessening of earning capacity, or either, that you may reasonably be expected to sustain in the future.[2]

Starting with section 5, a personal injury victim is entitled to all of their medical expenses, both past and future.  Importantly, the claim is not just for the amount of medical expenses paid out-of-pocket, for example co-pays or deductibles, but instead is for the full amount charged by the medical provider for the treatment.[3]  Virginia law states unequivocally that a personal injury victim is entitled to compensation for the full amount of their medical bills.

A personal injury victim is also entitled to any wages lost as a result of their injuries and any wages that will be lost in the future.  In some instances, people are injured in a way that does not allow them to return to their chosen field of employment. In these cases, they are entitled to an amount of money that will compensate them for a “loss of earning capacity.”[4]  As is the case with medical bills, if a person receives a guaranteed salary, paid-vacation, paid sick leave, short-term disability benefits, Workers Compensation benefits, or any other payment while missing time from work, they may still claim the full value of their lost wages.[5]

A personal injury claimant is also entitled to compensation for losses that cannot be calculated by simply adding up bills or paystubs.  These losses are often referred to as “pain and suffering.”  That phrase is an oversimplification.  Under Virginia law, an injured person is entitled to be compensated for the injury itself, taking into account its degree and duration, as well as the pain and mental anguish suffered both past and future.  Pain is straight forward, but varies greatly by degree.  Mental anguish may include fear of driving after a motor vehicle collision, fear that something worse could have happened, angst due to uncertainty about a potential diagnoses, fear that an injury will never go away, or fear of upcoming surgery.   Scars or visible injuries that may cause embarrassment or humiliation are also factors for consideration.

When a person is injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, it can be incredibly inconvenient.  “Inconvenience” is a broad term but in the context of personal injuries it encompasses such losses as being unable to perform the normal activities of daily living while in recovery, having to repeatedly travel for doctors appointments, missing family events, putting aside hobbies, missing opportunities to socialize with friends, getting behind on school work, being unable to mow the lawn, being unable to drive, and any number of other things. The inconvenience caused by an injury can often be a very valuable component to consider before settlement.

It is clear that Virginia law entitles personal injury claimants to monetary compensation for a variety of losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish, the injury itself, disfigurement, and inconvenience. Negotiating a full and fair resolution requires consideration of all of these factors collectively and is far from straightforward. When negotiations fail, a personal injury claimant’s only option is to file a lawsuit.  The personal injury lawyers of Allen and Allen deal with these considerations every day. They will take everything into account when fighting for the compensation you deserve.

About the Author: Rob Reed is a personal injury trial lawyer with the Allen Law Firm. He works out of their Richmond Office. Rob’s practice is devoted exclusively to protecting the interests of seriously injured clients and their families in personal injury cases.

[1] See Virginia Model Jury Instructions – Civil, Vol. 1, Inst. No. 9.000 (Dec. 2013).

[2] Virginia Model Jury Instruction No. 9.000.

[3] See Acuar v. Letourneau, 260 Va. 180 (2000).

[4] See Exxon Corp. v. Fulgham, 224 Va. 235 (1982).

[5] See Bullard v. Alfonso, 267 Va. 743 (2004).