When you undertake a personal injury case, the goal is to receive compensation for any injuries or other damages done to you. Damages in personal injury law refers to the monetary value legally assigned to an injury or violation of your rights. There are actually three types of compensatory damages that you can receive in a personal injury case, but each case is different.
Here we will define the different kinds of damages and the situations where they may be awarded.
1. Special Compensatory Damages
Special compensatory damages are awarded specifically when a plaintiff can show that monetary damages or losses occurred due to the actions of the defendant. These damages, as with each kind of damages, are awarded on a case by case basis. Two examples of cases that may award special are car accidents and slip and fall accidents.
Car wreck cases are probably the most common type of personal injury case where special damages are awarded because of the injuries sustained. So long as a person injured in an accident provides the proper documentation, it’s easy to prove the monetary cost of the injuries.
Special damages specifically work to repair or make up for the cost of medical care, lost wages, physical therapy, and medical bills. Depending on the case, a plaintiff may even be able to use their damage awards to make up for canceled travel plans due to injury.
You might not think that you could sustain a severe injury from slips, trips, and falls, but it does happen. Injuries sustained from this kind of accident include concussions, spinal injuries, sprains, broken bones, and more depending on the fall.
In order to win special damages for a slip and fall, you must prove that you have an injury. Therefore, if you ever experience a slip and fall accident, gather and document your evidence. If your accident occurred in a store, you may have to work through the other party’s insurance company before taking your case to court.
It is easy for a slip and fall accident to become complicated. If you absolutely need a monetary award for your injuries, working with a personal injury lawyer will help you streamline your case.
Although sometimes confused with punitive damages, liquidated damages are, in fact, actual damages. However, liquidated damages are either challenging or impossible to prove.
The challenge of working with these types of damages is they can be ignored if they are used to punish a breach of contract. If you can sue for liquidated damages, work with your lawyer to ensure they are used effectively.
2. General Compensatory Damages
In contrast to special damages, general damages compensate for non-monetary losses or suffering. General damages are not assigned a specific dollar amount or limit. However, the stipulation is that the amount of damages must be close to, or proximate to, the amount lost by the plaintiff.
The most commonly claimed general types of damages include the following:
- Mental or emotional suffering
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (partner or spouse)
General damages may also serve to repair future losses. For example, if an injured person requires physical therapy, counseling, or long-term medical care, a damage award may be awarded to cover those expenses.
When you undertake a personal injury lawsuit, you may be awarded a combination of special and general damages, depending on your case. Some courts may use a modifier to calculate how much you will be paid. Again, each case is different, so if you have questions about how you will be paid, talk to your lawyer.
3. Punitive Damages
Other than compensatory damages, the court may decide to award your case punitive damages. But what are punitive damages? The difference between compensatory and punitive damages is the purpose behind them.
Compensatory damages are used to give the victim monetary support while they recover. In contrast, punitive damages are additional costs charged to the defendant in order to punish outstandingly shocking or severe behavior. In the legal field, these are also called exemplary damages.
The point of punitive damages is to discourage the defendant from allowing wrongdoing to happen again. Punitive damages may also encourage defendants to implement better safety procedures.
In terms of personal injury law, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the at fault’s negligence lead to severe injury. For example, if a business owner failed to provide adequate warnings against injuries, they may be held liable for punitive damages.
The maximum amount of punitive damages that are awarded varies from state to state. Typically, the cap amount of punitive damages is calculated by the cost placed on the plaintiff multiplied by the state’s determined cap multiplier.
Alternatively, other states have hard monetary limits for punitive damage awards. For example, in Virginia, the amount is capped at $350,000 and in Missouri, the cap is $500,000.
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Our law firm specializes in several areas of personal injury law, including:
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