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  • Writer's pictureGregory Sandler


When you come to see me the day after you’ve been in a crash, my answer is always going to be “I don’t know. What does your crystal ball tell you?”. Because a crystal ball is exactly what you would need to be able to see into the future of your life to determine how badly you were really harmed by that crash. The point is that we will know when the time is right.

“How Much” to clients really means “Damages” to lawyers. The value of your case, either to the insurance company trying to negotiate a settlement, or to jurors who have listened to evidence during a trial, has everything to do with what harm and losses you have experienced, and may experience in the future, as a result of the conduct of the person that caused the harm. So let’s look at what the law allows, in Virginia specifically, but generally all over, to be included in DAMAGES, because that is what is important to you. In Virginia we have an instruction to the jury allows them to consider each of the following:

(1) any bodily injuries she sustained and their effect on her health according to their degree and probable duration;

(2) any physical pain and mental anguish she suffered in the past and any that she may be reasonably 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 she lost because she was unable to work at her calling;

(7) any loss of earnings and lessening of earning capacity, or either, that she may reasonably be expected to sustain in the future.

Your particular injury may not have all of these elements but the “How Much” question is answered by trying to place a value on each one that applies. While we easily know the value of the medical expenses in (5) and the lost earnings in (6), it is quite another thing to place a value on the pain and anguish in (2) or the value of bodily injury in (1). That is where the experience and knowledge of your attorney becomes valuable and why you need to talk to him about how the injury has affected your life.

Over the past 30 years, I have heard a lot about what is NOT considered as damages: “the time that my wife lost from work taking me to the doctor”, “but I had to sell my house and lost money on the deal, because I could not continue to live there”, “well he could have killed me!”, “what if such and such happens 10 years from now”. While they may be real to you, they aren’t direct damages according to the law.

Your lawyer is trying to get you the full and fair compensation for injuries caused by the person who harmed you. The law is intended to put you in the place you would have been if not for the crash. While we would all like to simply turn back the clock to the time before the crash, it can’t be done. That leaves money as the only tool the law allows to fix the harms that can be fixed and help you with the harms that can’t.

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