Compensation in tort law is a complex topic that deals with a lot of factors and different situations. Learn what to expect with the Guardian Legal Network.
Compensation in Tort Law: What to Expect
Compensation in tort law is a complex topic that deals with many factors and different situations. At the end of the day, you and your lawyer will work together to determine what kind of damages are best for you and the best way to go about them.
That said, having an idea of the options available to you and what you can expect in terms of amounts and timelines can help you better understand where your lawyer is coming from and let you actively participate in the conversation. Below, we outline how compensation in tort law works to help you better follow along as you go through your options with your lawyer.
What Types of Damages are Available in Tort Cases?
In successful tort cases, you’ll receive your compensation in one of two ways: 1) through a settlement or 2) as an award in court.
In a settlement agreement, you will receive an amount that the two parties (you and the company/entity you’re suing) mutually agree upon. If you go to trial and win your case, the court can award you a few different types of damages.
In tort cases, the most common types of damages are compensatory damages, punitive damages, and nominal damages.
Compensatory damages are monetary amounts that are designed to compensate you for the loss that you have suffered. There are two types of compensatory damages: actual and general.
Actual damages can also be known as special damages or economic damages. Actual damages can include medical bills, physical therapy, lost income, increased living expenses, transportation, rehabilitation expenses, and the cost to repair or replace any damaged or destroyed property. This type of damage rectifies what can be totaled and accounted for tangibly.
General compensatory damages (or non-economic damages) are meant to compensate a plaintiff for mental anguish, disfigurement, future medical expenses, long-term pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of opportunity. In other words, they try and give a monetary award to alleviate the intangible harm that was caused by the wrong.
Punitive damages are awarded in some instances when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful, and righting the boat wouldn’t be enough to close the situation. Punitive damages are considered punishment and awarded on top of compensatory damages.
When awarding punitive damages, a court will likely consider whether a defendant’s conduct was malicious, intentional, or grossly negligent. Punitive damages are also sometimes called exemplary damages because they are intended as an example to deter others from similar conduct.
Nominal damages are awarded when a person’s legal rights have technically been violated, but has not been able to show that they have suffered any accompanying loss or harm. As such, nominal damages are used to show that a party won their case in court and are largely symbolic. In many cases, nominal damages will be awarded in the amount of one dollar.
How Much Can You Get From a Tort Claim?
The compensation that you can receive can vary depending on many factors, including the type of injury that you sustained, how that injury impacts your life, and the particular facts of your case—on top of how well your lawyer argues your case on your behalf. Other factors that affect the value of your tort claim include whether you will need ongoing medical care and if you suffered income loss due to your injury.
Compensation in tort law varies greatly based upon the type of injury you suffered and the individual facts of your case. With proper legal representation, receiving compensation is possible and often likely.
For example, in 2013 Johnson & Johnson settled over 8,000 defective hip implant lawsuits for $4 billion and in 2016, Wright Medical settled 1,300 defective hip implant lawsuits for $240 million. In September 2019, Purdue Pharma settled thousands of opioid cases by agreeing to pay $3 billion over seven years.
How Compensation in Tort Law is Calculated
How the compensation that you receive is calculated differs depending on the type of damages being awarded:
- Compensatory damages – Compensatory damages are calculated based upon the proof you have for the damages you suffered and the best estimates of damages you will experience in the future.
- Punitive damages – Punitive damages are calculated based upon the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct, the defendant’s financial condition, and the relationship to the actual damages suffered. Some states limit the amount of punitive damages. For example, in some states, punitive damages cannot exceed four times the amount of compensatory damages.
- Nominal damages – Nominal damages are typically a very small amount, such as one dollar. This is solely based on the discretion of the court.
How Long Will Compensation Take to Reach Me?
How long it takes to get compensation depends on the facts of your case and whether you settle with the other party or it goes all the way to trial.
If your case goes to trial and you win, a court might order the defendant (the business or corporation) to pay you a sum of money. Your attorney will then use that money to pay off any expenses incurred from your lawsuit and then write you a check for the difference.
In a lawsuit settlement, the parties will agree to settle their differences outside of court. The settlement agreement will typically state that the lawsuit will be dismissed in exchange for a specific sum of money. Once the agreement is signed, the defendant will send a check to your attorney. Your attorney will pay off any expenses incurred from your lawsuit and write you a check for the remaining amount.
The amount of time to receive compensation varies a great deal. If you choose to settle your case, you may receive compensation within a few weeks. If you decide to go to trial, you might not receive compensation for a few years. An experienced tort law attorney will be able to provide you with an estimate of how long it will take to receive compensation based on the facts of your case. Contact Guardian Legal Network today for more information.
Contact an Experienced Tort Claim Lawyer
Guardian Legal Network’s network of experienced tort claim attorneys are available to you to go over the details of your case and give you an estimate of the value of your claim. If you would like to schedule your free consultation, contact Guardian Legal Network today.
- Harry Nelson. “The Opioid Litigation: Settlements, Winners, and Losers”, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbooksauthors/2019/07/26/the-opioid-litigation-settlements-winners-and-losers/#7609ebdc69ad. Accessed June 3, 2022.