Injured people phone me every week, asking what I can get for them. They want to know what Alaskan law allows them to recover. Here’s the list…
If you are injured in a motor vehicle crash, for example, Alaskan law allows you to claim these “damages” from the defendant: (1) past and future medical bills; (2) past and future lost wages; and (3) past and future “non-economic” losses.
The term “non-economic losses” is unfortunate. What it mean is – “Human Losses.”
My dad (a brilliant trial lawyer) used to say “People don’t live to work, they work so that they may live.” In other words, lost wages are the smallest part of any injured person’s losses. For five days each week, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, we toil at our jobs. For many of us, it isn’t until after 5:00 pm, and on weekends, that we get to live. So I ask you … what time is more valuable? The drudgery of most 8-5 employment, or the recreation that follows? Clearly, its the recreation. We only work so that we may live.
At trial, jurors are told about past medical bills – and provided a list. Future medical bills are normally determined by “expert” testimony/opinions from doctors. My client’s treating physician will give an opinion as to future/expected medical bills. The insurance company will then hire a really handsome doctor with a Harvard background and a fabulous tan (with perfect silver hair) to say that the “real” cost of future care is much, much less than the treating doctor said. Oddly, it doesn’t ever matter how much my treating physician says is reasonable for medical bills: The insurance doctor cuts it in half. Don’t get me started about insurance doctors. It’s ugly.
The same analysis goes for lost wages. Insurance companies hire the same “vocational rehabilitation” experts to testify, again-and-again, that my client won’t lose any future wages, no matter how badly hurt.
The most important part of the jury’s verdict, lost enjoyment of life or “non-economic losses” all boil down to this question: “How much money would a reasonable person pay to avoid my client’s situation?” When a jury finally gets to consider how much a person would pay to avoid needless suffering, they usually can come up with a fair verdict. Unlike insurance companies, we tend to value human suffering quite dearly.
BOTTOM LINE: The answer to “What can you get for me?” is best answered with a question: “How much have you suffered?” If you have to call an attorney for help with your personal injury, I hope you are entitled to VERY, VERY little.