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Determining Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

One of the most important aspects of your personal injury claim is determining personal injury damages that are proper and at what amount. To best complete this task it’s important to understand the various types of damages.

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How do you determine damages after a personal injury?

There are three types of personal injury damages: special, general and punitive. While special and general damages apply to most personal injury cases, punitive damages are only available under certain situations.

Special Damages

Special damages are often referred to as economic damages, because they are directly related to the financial costs of your injuries. Special damages are generally substantiated through documents such receipts, cancelled checks and written records. Some examples include:

  • Loss of income – You may be able to secure compensation for each day that your injuries keep you from attending work or meeting your employment responsibilities if your absence resulted in a loss or reduction in your income. Quantify these damages through past pay stubs or statements from your employer/supervisor.
  • Medical costs – This is compensation covers the cost of your medical expenses, including:
    • Emergency medical services at the time of the injuring event;
    • Follow up doctor visits;
    • Hospital costs;
    • Laboratory bills;
    • Surgical costs;
    • Pharmaceutical expenses; and
    • Physical therapy costs.

Quantify medical expenses with documentation from your physician, billing statements, explanation of benefits and receipts.

  • Property damage – If the injury causing incident also resulted in damage to property, the cost of repairing or replacing the property is another special damage amount.
  • Additional expenses – These out-of-pocket expenses are cost not directly related to your interests. However, they are expenses that you still incurred because of your injuries. For example, rental car payments are examples of out-of-pocket payments in auto accident cases.

General Damages

General damages are often referred to as non-economic damages. These are consequences that result from the injurious event. Some examples of general damages are:

  • Physical pain and suffering – These damages refer to the collection of injuries that may follow an injury causing incident. It includes the direct physical injury that the at-fault party caused, in addition to any causal injuries that later surface.
  • Mental anguish – These damages are designed to compensate you for psychological damages resulting from your injuries. Some examples include:
    • Inability to sleep;
    • Depression;
    • Anxiety; and
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Loss of consortium – This is a claim regarding diminished intimacy between the injured party and a spouse or family member. It is a request for compensation regarding the injured party’s diminished ability to provide the same affection, companionship or sexual attention as before the accident.
  • Lower quality of life  – This damage award compensates the injured party for the negative impact that the injury has on his quality of living. In quantifying this type of damage, the court considers details like the the individual’s age at the time of injury and whether the individual has children.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages only apply to certain cases of recklessness and gross negligence. There are two reasons why these awards are granted:

  • Punishment for acting recklessly or egregiously; and
  • To deter the at-fault party from repeating bad actions.

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