Injury victims may seek compensation, also referred to as damages for their losses in personal injury cases. There are two main categories for damages, compensatory and punitive. Most cases will involve compensatory damages, but in extreme cases, punitive damages may also be applicable.
Types of Compensatory Damages
The intent of compensatory damages is to compensate an injured party for the harm they suffered. These damages are available for all types of injury cases, including slip and fall, car accident, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. Compensatory damages can be further broken down into three types of damages.
General Compensatory Damages
General damages compensate an injury victim for non-economic damages addressed in their injury claim. They fall under the category of general damages because they are common when an injury is sustained. Almost all personal injury victims experience at least one, if not more general damages. These damages may include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Physical impairment
- Physical disfigurement
- Mental anguish or embarrassment
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Diminished quality of life
It can be difficult to put a monetary value on damages that are considered non-economic because they are unique to each injury victim. These damages can be applicable to motor vehicle accidents, truck accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, medical malpractice, and other types of personal injury cases. Awards for these damages will vary according to the severity of the injury and the jury’s sensitivities.
Special Compensatory Damages
Unlike general compensatory damages, special compensatory damages are more easily quantifiable. These are damages that are out-of-pocket expenses related to the incident that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Of course, proof must be provided by the injured party and their attorney that these expenses exist. For example, with a severe car accident injury, there could be extensive medical bills, loss of earnings, loss of future earnings, and the expense of future medical care.
In the case of medical malpractice or negligence, such as a birth injury, a young injury victim may face a lifetime of specialized medical care. This usually requires a life care plan to address the consequences of medical expenses, long-term care, loss of earnings, etc.
Wrongful Death Damages
Damages for wrongful death differ from general and special compensatory damages because they are awarded to the victim’s survivors and loved ones. The damages in this category include both non-economic and economic types, including the cost of medical care before death, funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, loss of companionship and consortium, loss of support and services, and the emotional distress of family and loved ones.
Punitive Damages for Extreme Cases
A jury may award punitive damages in a personal injury case when the defendant’s wrongful actions were reprehensible. These damages are common in cases where the defendant is found guilty of malicious, wanton, or negligent acts. Often in high profile injury cases involving disregard for public safety, defective products, and dangerous prescription drugs, punitive damages may be placed on manufacturers who have deep pockets. Such damages may apply in serious car accidents caused by rideshare or delivery drivers who are independent contractors working for large companies like Lyft or Uber.