In the context of personal injury claims, “damages” refer to the monetary compensation that a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit. The types of damages which may be recovered are designed to restore the injured party to the position they were in prior to the injury or harm.
This compensation may cover a range of losses, from monetary losses like medical expenses and lost wages, to non-monetary losses like pain and suffering. The specific amount and types of damages awarded depend on the nature and severity of the injury, as well as the laws of the jurisdiction in which the case is heard.
There are 3 types of damages available in personal injury claims: special, general, and punitive damages. However, special and general damages are often combined and referred to as compensatory damages. Given special and general damages are sub-categories of compensatory damages, there is sometimes confusion about these types of damages.
The illustration below breaks down the types of damages, and includes examples of when each type of damage is awarded.
Compensatory damages aim to “compensate” the injured party for losses incurred as a result of the injury. This form of damage seeks to restore the financial state of the injured person back to what it was before the injury occurred.
Compensatory damages can be divided into two categories: special damages and general damages. Special damages refer to economic losses that are easily quantifiable, such as medical bills and lost income, while general damages account for non-economic losses that are not easily quantified, such as pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Special damages are those that can be quantified and include expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and lost earnings. Because these damages can be easily quantified, they are often referred to as economic damages, or monetary damages. These damages are unique to each case, hence the term “special”, as they directly correspond to the financial impact of the injury on the claimant.
Examples of special damages include, but are not limited to:
Remember, the purpose of special damages is to financially restore the plaintiff as closely as possible to their pre-injury state.
Calculating special damages involves a comprehensive assessment of all economic losses the plaintiff has incurred as a result of the injury. A good starting point for this calculation is to add up all the measurable expenses, such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and property damages.
It’s important to keep detailed records of all related expenses to ensure an accurate calculation of special damages. In some cases, an economic expert may be brought in to provide a more detailed analysis and projection of future expenses. Remember, the goal of special damages is to restore the plaintiff’s financial state to what it would have been had the injury not occurred.
General damages are so named because they cover the “general” or non-specific aspects of a plaintiff’s losses that are not easily quantifiable. Unlike special damages, which compensate for measurable losses like medical bills or lost wages, general damages compensate for subjective non-economic, or non-monetary, impacts of an injury.
This includes pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life, all of which broadly affect the plaintiff’s overall quality of life. As these damages are inherently more subjective and vary greatly from case to case, they are termed as “general”. These types of damages attempt to monetarily compensate for areas of loss that are generally experienced as a result of an injury, but whose exact financial impact cannot be specifically calculated.
Examples of general damages include, but are not limited to:
Just as with special damages, the aim of general damages is to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in prior to the injury, to the extent that this is possible.
Calculating general damages can be a complex process due to their subjective nature. Unlike special damages, there are no concrete bills or receipts to determine the value of these types of damages. Instead, the calculation involves a thorough assessment of the effect of an injury on the plaintiff’s life. The following are some of the factors that may be considered:
Given these variables, it’s beneficial to consult with our personal injury attorneys who can help assess and argue for a fair amount of general damages. It’s important to note that each case is unique, and the calculation of general damages will be tailored to the specific circumstances of the your case.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are a type of compensation that goes beyond simple compensation and is awarded to punish the defendant for their reckless, negligent, or intentional conduct. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not concerned with compensating the plaintiff for their losses. Instead, they are designed to penalize the defendant and deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.
It’s important to note that punitive damages are not awarded in every personal injury case. These types of damages are typically reserved for cases where the defendant’s behavior was egregiously harmful or particularly outrageous. As such, the laws and standards for awarding punitive damages vary by jurisdiction.
In determining the amount of punitive damages, courts often consider factors such as the severity of the defendant’s misconduct, the harm caused to the plaintiff, and the defendant’s wealth. Despite their punitive nature, these damages still have to be proportionate to the actual damage suffered by the plaintiff. The goal of punitive damages, ultimately, is to serve justice by punishing truly negligent behavior and discouraging such conduct in the future.
Examples of cases where punitive damages may be awarded include, but are not limited to:
In each of these cases, the defendant’s behavior goes beyond simple negligence, demonstrating a malicious or extremely careless disregard for the rights and safety of others. The amount of punitive damages awarded usually reflects the severity of the defendant’s misconduct and is intended to deter similar actions in the future.
The calculation of punitive damages varies widely and depends on a multitude of factors, primarily the degree of the defendant’s misconduct and its impact. There are no set rules or formulas; instead, the court uses its discretion to determine an appropriate amount. Here are some of the key considerations:
Given the complexity and subjective nature of these calculations, legal representation is invaluable. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can accurately assess the scope for punitive damages, helping to secure a fair and just outcome for you. It is crucial to remember that each case is unique, and calculations will vary based on the specific circumstances of the incident.
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or intentional misconduct, you may be entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Thompson Law are well-versed in all aspects of personal injury law and are ready to fight for the types of damages you deserve. We offer in-depth FREE CONSULTATIONS and will guide you through every step of your injury claim process, from calculating potential damages to presenting a compelling case.
Remember, each case is unique, and our legal team is committed to providing personalized guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Contact us today to discuss your case, what types of damages may apply, and explore your options. Your path to justice starts here with Thompson Law.
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