Personal injury damages and compensation refer to the costs accrued due to an illness or injury that was caused by someone else’s negligence, and the financial repayment owed to them by that person. In severe cases of personal injury that result in wrongful death, the family of the decedent may recover damages on their behalf. Damages can be categorized as economic or special damages, non-economic or general damages, and punitive damages. General and special damages are compensatory which differ from punitive damages.
What are Personal Injury Damages?
Personal injury damages are a blanket term that can mean the economic or emotional toll an individual sustained while being injured by another’s negligence. This usually includes the financial costs of medical expenses as well as an amount that is determined to compensate the victim for any pain and suffering. These damages are often used to determine the amount of compensation the injured party is seeking to pay for those costs. Damages may be awarded for physical pain, emotional distress, illness, and monetary loss that may have resulted from the direct and indirect impacts of sustaining an injury. There are also punitive damages that are meant to serve as a punishment to the wrongdoer.
What are the 3 Types of Personal Injury Damages?
Compensation for personal injury claims is categorized into three different types of damages that may be awarded:
General Damages – These damages are for the non-financial negative influence the incident has had on your life. Various types of general damages include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and decreased quality of life. These damages take into account both past and future suffering.
Special Damages – These damages are for the financial costs that you have incurred because of the incident. Various types of special damages include things such as lost wages, medical treatment, property damage, therapy costs, and medical equipment. When calculating these damages, the expenses that you will incur going forward because of the incident are also included.
Punitive Damages – These damages are less common and awarded when the injury was caused by extreme recklessness or willful intent. Punitive damages are applicable when the defendant has been proven to have committed an act of malice, oppression, or fraud. The aim of these damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant and deter them or others from committing those acts in the future.
What are Compensatory Damages?
The point of compensation for personal injury claims is to make the victim whole again. Finding a financial value for the damage caused by the incident is a way to make up for the losses suffered. There are two types of compensatory damages. Economic, or special damages are meant to compensate for financial losses. Non-economic, or general damages are meant to compensate for other losses. Economic damages come with their own specific monetary value and are relatively easy to calculate. Non-economic damages do not have a set monetary value and can be more difficult.
General damages, also called non-economic damages, are the intangible losses suffered due to personal injuries as well as reasonably estimated future costs. They have no set financial value and are calculated on a case-by-case basis. These damages include but are not limited to:
- Emotional Distress
- Loss of Consortium/Companionship
- Pain and Suffering
- Reduced Quality of Life
Special damages, also called economic damages, are the financial costs and losses suffered due to a personal injury as well as reasonably estimated future costs. There are many forms of special damages including but not limited to:
- Ambulance Costs
- Doctor Visits
- Hospital Bills
- Lost Wages/Diminished Earning Capacity
- Medical Equipment
- Property Damage
What Are Punitive Damages?
A punitive damage award is not meant to be a compensation for the plaintiff, but to serve as a punishment for the defendant. When an incident is caused by willful intent or gross negligence, a judge may determine that punitive damages are necessary. Not only do they serve to punish the guilty party, but they also serve as a way to deter others from committing the same actions. While punitive damages are not incredibly common, there are many areas wherein a judge may award them including but not limited to:
- Assault & Battery
- Car Accidents Involving DUI
- Defective Products
- Environmental Damage
- Felony Murder
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
- Medical Malpractice
- Premises Liability
- Sexual Assault
- Workplace Accidents
What Do You Need to Claim Personal Injury Damages?
One of the main things you will need to claim personal injury damages is thorough medical records. Things like doctor’s notes, tests and imaging, prescriptions, and a detailed account of the treatments received can all be used to show a comprehensive outline of the injuries caused by the incident. Any official documented proof of the physical and emotional damages suffered can be useful.
What Do You Need to Prove to Receive Personal Injury Damages?
There are four main factors that must be proven in order for a plaintiff to prove a personal injury claim:
Duty of Care – The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This means that it was the defendant’s responsibility to prevent others from being harmed by their actions. Drivers have a duty of care to the people around them, doctors have a duty of care to their patients, and property owners have a duty of care to their guests.
Breach of Duty – The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care that the defendant owed them. Someone driving while intoxicated, a doctor giving someone the wrong medication, and a property owner who ignores dangerous hazards have all breached their duty of care.
Causation – The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breaching their duty of care was directly responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. A pedestrian being struck by a drunk driver, a patient who has an allergic reaction to the wrong medication, and a customer who slips on the wet floor of a shop have all been injured as a direct result of someone breaching their duty of care to them.
Damages – The plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages due to the injury caused by the defendant breaching their duty of care. Medical bills, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering including emotional distress are all examples of damages that may be proven in a personal injury claim.
Can the Actions of a Victim Impact Personal Injury Damages?
There are situations wherein the injured party may take action or fail to take action in a way that is detrimental to their claim. This can refer to their actions before or after the accident. There are some situations where the plaintiff may even be partially responsible for the accident, and there are different regulations governing how this is handled.
Pure Comparative Negligence – The state of California adjusts the amount of compensation a person may receive for a personal injury claim by the percentage that they were at fault for the accident. This means that if a claim would be worth $100k but the plaintiff was 25 percent responsible for the accident, then they would only be able to receive up to $75k.
Partial Comparative Negligence – In some states, if the percentage that the plaintiff was at fault exceeds a specific amount, then they will not be able to recover anything at all. In most cases, the amount is 50 percent. So, if a claim would be worth $100k but the plaintiff was 49 percent responsible for the accident, then they would only be able to receive up to $51k. But if the plaintiff was 51 percent responsible for the accident, they would not be able to receive anything.
Contributory Negligence – In some states, if the plaintiff is found to be in any way responsible for the accident, then they will not be allowed to recover any damage award at all.
Contact Mesriani Law Group if You Have Suffered Personal Injury Damages
Personal injury claims can be a long and complicated process to handle alone. Having a personal injury attorney can make things quicker, easier, and give you a better chance at receiving the compensation you deserve. They can help you gather evidence, file your claim, help you find medical treatment, and negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf. Having a good personal injury lawyer can be a major determining factor in the final outcome of a claim. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, and are in need of compensation, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.
Personal Injury Damages FAQ
What damages are available in a personal injury case?
There are three possible types of damages that may be awarded in a personal injury case. Economic damages, also known as special damages, are the financial compensation for financial losses such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. Non-economic damages, also known as general damages, are the financial compensation for non-financial losses such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, and reduced quality of life. Punitive damages are a financial punishment dealt to the responsible parties for actions of malice, oppression, or fraud. Punitive damages also serve as a way to deter people from such behavior.
How much is my personal injury case worth?
Every personal injury case is different. Each situation has its own details and factors that make it unique. There is no set standard for determining the appropriate amount of compensation. Every aspect of the situation is examined and evaluated including the severity of the injuries, the impact they had on the person’s life, and the sum of the financial expenses. It is impossible to predict that a car accident will yield a specific compensation just because another car accident received that amount. Non-economic damages also do not have a set standard of calculation. There are different methods that attorneys may use to determine non-economic damages by utilizing the economic damages as a baseline. The only way to determine how much a particular personal injury case may be worth is to examine all aspects of the situation.
How are damages calculated?
Compensation for personal injury claims are calculated in a myriad of ways. Economic damages are easy to calculate. The personal injury lawyers will collect all of the plaintiff’s medical bills, auto shop bills, paystubs, and any other financial records and add up how much money the accident caused them to lose. They can also use these documents to predict the most likely future losses due to the accident as well. Non-economic damages are trickier as they have no set financial value. There are some methods that attorneys use such as the multiplier method and the per diem method. The multiplier method takes the total sum of the economic damages and multiplies them by a number between 1 and 5 depending on the severity of the injuries and their negative impact on the plaintiff’s life. The per diem method takes the income that the plaintiff was making before the accident, calculates the amount earned per day, and multiplies that by every day they have and will miss work due to the injury. Punitive damages are up to the discretion of the judge and are often based on the severity of the wrongdoing.