What Damages Are Available if a Loved One Is Incapacitated in an Accident?

Some accidents cause incapacitating injuries, meaning injuries that leave a victim physically or mentally incapable of taking legal action on his or her own. In these scenarios, a designated family member or representative may file a catastrophic injury claim on the victim’s behalf. A claim can result in financial compensation (damages) not only for the injured victim’s losses but also for any family members who were affected by the debilitating injury.

How Is Incapacitated Defined?

In legal lingo, incapacitated means someone lacks the capacity to do certain things, such as make decisions for himself or herself, communicate decisions, manage a property, handle finances, and file a personal injury lawsuit. In general, someone is legally incapacitated if he or she cannot make and communicate decisions or meet the essential requirements for his or her own health and safety. If your loved one suffered a severe brain injury, for example, it may have caused brain damage that classifies your loved one as incapacitated. It may then be up to you to file a claim to pursue the three types of damages available: economic, noneconomic and punitive.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the financial losses associated with an injury, both for a victim and his or her family. They refer to out-of-pocket costs spent on the victim’s recovery, such as medical bills and live-in care. They also refer to money spent repairing any property that was damaged in the accident, the victim’s lost wages, lost capacity to earn due to a disability, money spent in legal fees and other costs. An economic damage award is meant to put the plaintiff in the financial position that he or she most likely would have been in had the accident not occurred.

Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages describe all of the losses associated with an incapacitating injury that are not financial or tangible. They are also referred to as general damages, as they describe losses that any ordinary person would suffer due to the nature or extent of the injury. Examples of noneconomic damages are physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, psychological trauma, lost quality of life or enjoyment of living, inconvenience, scarring or disfigurement, loss of consortium, and family members’ mental anguish.

recover damages after car accident in Missouri

Punitive Damages

In extreme circumstances, the courts in Kansas City may award punitive damages. This is a type of award that is used to punish a defendant for especially egregious acts of wrongdoing, such as recklessness or intent to harm. Punitive damages are more commonly awarded in cases involving permanent, debilitating and incapacitating injuries, as the courts recognize the severity of these injuries and that a plaintiff may deserve more than what a jury awarded in compensatory damages.

Loss of Consortium and Incapacitation

Loss of consortium is a type of loss that is typically involved in a catastrophic or incapacitating injury claim, as it refers to the loss of a family relationship or personal bond with an accident victim due to an injury caused by the defendant. In Missouri, loss of consortium is a blanket term that can include loss of the victim’s love, support, parental guidance, affection, companionship, sexual relations and other benefits that are typically enjoyed by the victim’s family members but that have been adversely affected by the incapacitating injury.

How Much Can Loss of Consortium Cover?

The answer to this question depends on the specific case, such as if the victim was married or had children. Since loss of consortium is a type of noneconomic damage, it is largely up to a jury to decide how much to award the plaintiff. A jury will base its decision in part on its impression of how significantly the injury has impacted the victim and his or her family members. The best way to maximize your family’s financial recovery in an incapacitating injury claim is by hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer in Kansas City to represent you.