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Types of Damages in Personal Injury Claims

Jeff Martin July 15, 2022

Injuries are almost always accidents, but that doesn’t mean that someone isn’t at fault. That’s why our legal system allows people to file for damages. Damages — sought after in a personal injury claim — refer to money that is legally owed by a defendant who has, in some way, committed a violation toward the person or persons seeking damages.

If you have been injured and plan on filing a claim hoping to receive compensation, you should first know that there are two main types of damages. With the help of an experienced attorney, you will be able to determine which type of damages you seek compensation for while navigating the often-complicated injury claims process. 

Here, we’ll look at those two main types of damages and anything else you might need to know when beginning the personal injury claims process. 

 

Special damages vs. general damages

 Special damages and general damages are the two main types of damages that fall under the category of compensatory damages. The idea behind compensatory damages is to help the injured person or persons get back to a way of life that would have been consistent with how they were living had an injury never occurred. Obviously, injuries may prevent this from happening, so the bare minimum is to make sure that plaintiffs are compensated financially in a way that would add up to the injuries sustained.

 

What are general damages?

 General damages are also called "non-economic damages," meaning that the compensation sought is for reasons that don't include financial hardships due to the injury. This includes pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment for life, disfigurement, or mental anguish. None of the money rewarded for non-economic damages is awarded based on lost wages or medical bills, but simply a loss in quality of life.

The most common example of non-economic damages occurs in car accidents where another driver is deemed at fault. Here are a few things that will determine compensation for general damages:

  • How long your injury will last

  • The severity of your injury

  • How the injury will impact your life (school, work, home, etc.)

 

What are special damages?

Special damages award compensation based on the financial impact of the injured person or persons. This includes loss of wages, therapy, and medical bills, both past and future. This may seem like a simpler process than calculating non-economic damages, but that’s not necessarily the case. To calculate economic damages, you need medical witnesses to provide a reasonable timetable for how long you will need medical expenses covered. You also need to prove your loss of wages in court. 

Economic damages also include property damages. Property damages are awarded when a defendant is at fault for the destruction of personal property, such as cars or homes. For example, if a construction crew was working next to your house and somehow damaged your yard or home, you could be in line to receive compensation for damage to property.

 

How does special damages insurance work?

It is important to know why there is a separation between non-economic damages and economic damages. In the end, it is about who gets the money.  

When you are awarded non-economic damages, you receive the money for the settlement. It is money awarded to you that is supposed to help bring you back to the quality of life that you were used to before your injury occurred.  

Economic damages largely go to insurance companies for covering the cost of your health care in the aftermath of your accident, so you don’t see any of that money. Yes, it is crucial to have your medical bills covered as they are very expensive, but if you feel you deserve direct compensation, then you will want to seek non-economic damages. 

Hiring an experienced attorney will help you make this decision and navigate the process. 

 

What are punitive damages?

 Another type of damage is punitive damage. The purpose of these damages is to punish a defendant for especially egregious behavior and/or negligence. Punitive damages are not considered one of the main types of damages because they are the least common type of damages rewarded. They generally take longer to obtain, and a plaintiff is much less likely to win a case seeking punitive damages. However, if a plaintiff is awarded punitive damages, the compensation will likely be much more than non-economic or economic damages.

If you’ve been in an accident and seek damages, please contact Jeff Martin Law.