In many personal injury type cases, the person injured seeks “future damages,” but what does this actually mean?  Future damages, as the name implies, is damages that are expected to occur in the future, i.e. after trial.  However, the person who suffers an injury is only allowed to bring a single action for a particular accident, and that the person recovers their past damages and damages that he can be expected to sustain in the future

How Does A Court Determine Future Damages If They Are Uncertain?

Because it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen in the future, courts have a few mechanisms to try to make sure the award for future damages is both appropriate and somewhat accurate.  First, the court will generally require the plaintiff to show the approximate amount of damages, which, more likely than not, he will sustain in the future.  This can include things like future pain and suffering, future mental distress, future lost earnings, future medical expenses, and other future expenses.

However, just merely alleging that you will suffer from these damages is usually not enough for the court.  Usually, a plaintiff will need to use expert testimony to show their future damages.  Expert testimony is testimony by someone who is proven to be an expert in the field that’s at question.  For personal injury claims, this usually means the expert testimony will be given by a doctor or therapist.  The doctor will try to show that the physical injuries will probably be permanent, or at least long-lasting.  Next, the injured person will need to show that his future prospects of employment or livelihood would have been different had he not suffered the injury.  Many times this means using actuarial tables to show a person’s life expectancy.  Using this data, the injured person can ask for pain and suffering for that many years

Can You Sue For Your Lost Income?

If you are unable to work because of your injury, you might be able to get future lost earnings.  Generally, you would need to hire an expert in economics to testify about what your income is from working and what it would have been if not for the injury.  For example, a plaintiff hired a professor of labor economics to testify that the plaintiff’s decedent, a railroad worker, would probably have increased his earnings by 8% compounded annually over the next 34 years and would have spent 70% of that on his family.  The courts allowed this testimony in figuring out what the potential lost income amount is.  In fact, in some states, you can sue if you can show your life expectancy has been shortened because of the injury.

What do you think?  Is it fair that someone should get damages for their pain and suffering in the future?  Should a court look at a person’s actual damages on a yearly basis instead?

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