What are the different types of damages in a personal injury case?
If you are involved in a personal injury accident – a motor vehicle accident, a medical malpractice case or an injury at a business, for example – there are several different types of damages for which you can be compensated if you win your case in court.
A good attorney will ensure that you are compensated fairly, so it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who has the resources necessary to hire expert witnesses who can help cement your case.
If you win, the following are some of the damages for which you can expect compensation.
Types of personal injury damages
COMPENSATORY DAMAGES. Compensatory damages are awarded in an attempt to make the victim in a personal injury case whole, restoring the victim, as best as possible, financially, physically and emotionally. There are two different types of compensatory damages – special damages, which cover monetary losses, and general damages, which provide compensation for non-monetary losses. Compensatory damages can be either increased or decreased by a court following a review, without a retrial or an appeal.
Monetary losses. Monetary losses can be extensive, and damages can include both present and future medical expenses and rehabilitation. Future medical expenses are generally estimated based on the anticipated needs of the victim based on medical costs that are likely to be required for the rest of his or her life.
- Cost of living expenses. If the accident left the victim with some form of disability, compensatory damages will have to cover home remodeling to make it handicapped accessible as well as rehabilitation or in-home nursing care if the disabilities are severe enough that the victim is no longer able to care for him or herself.
- Lost wages. Compensatory damages will cover lost wages during the recovery period following the accident, when the victim was unable to work, or all future lost wages, with inflation built into the mix, if the victim cannot return to work.
- Property replacement. Compensatory damages include the replacement or repair of damaged property, such as a vehicle after a car accident, or a bicycle if the victim was hit by a car or truck while riding, for example.
Non-monetary losses. Victims’ lives are often forever altered by an accident, and while no amount of money can change that, it can help improve his or her quality of life.
- Pain and suffering. The emotional impact of being involved in a life-altering accident can be overwhelming, full of anger, frustration and changes in personality brought about by a potential loss of enjoyment of life after such drastic changes. Damages for pain and suffering are awarded to help compensate for that. Pain and suffering compensation also addresses the physical pain associated with debilitating injuries.
- Loss of companionship. Damages may be awarded to the partners of personal injury victims given the inevitable changes to the relationship that follows a serious injury, including the potential loss of companionship and intimacy.
PUNITIVE DAMAGES. Punitive damages are a bit different than compensatory damages, because they are meant to send a message to the defendant, and are awarded as punishment for conduct that is seen as particularly reckless. Punitive damages are rare, awarded in only about five percent of personal injury cases, and are only awarded on top of compensatory damages. They are limited in most courts to 10 times the amount of compensatory damages. The goal of punitive damages is to prevent or deter the defendant from committing a similar act again. Punitive damages are also known as “exemplary damages.”
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