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What determines how much money I can recover in a lawsuit?

First, it depends on the severity and duration of the injuries and the economic costs associated with the injuries.  You are entitled to be compensated for your medical bills, including estimated future medical bills. You are also entitled to be compensated for past lost wages and for any future loss of earning capacity.  Past medical bills and past lost wages are relatively easy to prove; future medical bills and future loss of earning capacity require expert testimony.  Finally, you are entitled to “general damages” for the past and future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life you experience or are expected to experience as a result of the accident.  General damages are usually the biggest component of a personal injury recovery.   

Second, it depends on the amount of money available to compensate for your damages.  Unless the defendant is a solvent corporation or an extremely wealthy individual, you are not going to recover more than the insurance limits no matter what your injuries are.  That is – again – why it’s always a good idea to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM).