A personal injury claim can help a claimant enjoy a sense of justice and find some closure in knowing that the party that caused their injuries has been met with legal action. Although the satisfaction of winning and holding someone accountable is great, the underlying purpose of any personal injury claim is to secure financial damages for the wrongfully injured. What you might not know is that the damages in personal injury claims can be divided into three categories: special (economic), general (non-economic), and punitive.
Special or Economic Damages
The base of most personal injury or civil claims is some form of special damage, which is also called an economic damage in many contexts. Special damages are meant to repay the claimant for tangible costs that they have already experienced because of their injuries. They can also be used to pay for future tangible costs that have not yet happened but predictably will.
Common types of special damages include:
- Medical treatments: The costs for necessary medical care (past and future) after an accident can be significant. Seeking special damages through a personal injury claim can help pay for them. In many cases, medical treatment costs are the most significant of all special damages, especially when all possible future treatments are factored in.
- Property damage: Vehicle repair or replacement can be demanded as special damage in an auto accident claim. There are many other forms of property damage that can come up in a case, though. Any property destroyed in an accident of any sort can be included in property damages. For example, if you slipped and fell in the mall, dropped your tablet, and it broke, then you could demand the cost needed to replace or repair the tablet.
- Lost income: When an accident leaves you severely injured, you could miss weeks, months, or years of work. The wages that you cannot earn because you have been injured can be counted as a special damage (past and future), even if you are receiving partial wages through some form of disability benefit. You can also be paid for the wages you will never earn because your income capacity has been limited by your injury. Financial experts are often needed to calculate missing wages and reduced income capacity in catastrophic injury claims.
- Disability costs: A new disability caused by an accident could require you to change your lifestyle and your living space. For example, people who have suffered leg and spine injuries often need wheelchair ramps, automated stairlifts, and other special equipment in their homes to be comfortable in their day-to-day lives. Such costs associated with disabilities can be covered with special or economic damages.
- Funeral costs: In a wrongful death claim, special damages can be used to pay for the costs associated with a burial or funeral. Courts will often cap funeral costs to an amount deemed “reasonable,” or around $10,000 in some states. If you arranged a traditional funeral or burial for your loved one, then you have likely spent a “reasonable” amount and should be repaid through your claim.
General or Noneconomic Damages
Damages without a concrete cost or source are called general damages. They might also be called noneconomic damages in certain contexts. In more contexts still, they are sometimes called “pain and suffering damages” because this is the damage type most closely associated with general damages.
To calculate general damages, the overall health and lifestyle of the claimant need to be addressed. Everything from age to occupation can change how much an insurance company or court will assume the claimant’s suffering is “worth.”
A few types of general damages are:
- Pain and suffering: Every injury causes pain, which leads to suffering (past and future). The more severe an injury, the more pain and suffering it is assumed to have caused the claimant. General damages can translate that pain and suffering into a monetary value as a way of “making things right” after an avoidable accident.
- Emotional scarring: It is common for people who suffered severe injuries or were in violent accidents to experience emotional or mental scarring. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest after a truck accident, for example, and the injured driver might become frightened whenever they are near a big rig. Such symptoms and the trouble they cause can be counted as general damages.
- Lessened enjoyment of life: A permanent injury can cause pain, suffering, and disability to such degrees that the claimant finds it difficult to enjoy the average day. When life has been conceivably worsened due to an accident, the claimant can demand a greater amount of compensation.
- Shortened life expectancy: Some severe injuries will never fully heal. In worst-case scenarios, they will even take years off the victim’s life, such as in many traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases. General damages can be used to assess and fairly pay for the years a claimant has lost, but medical experts are usually needed to reach an accurate conclusion.
In rare cases, a court can decide to punish a civil defendant with punitive damages that are paid without being directly assessed against another type of damage or a physical injury. Punitive damages are usually used when the defendant has committed some sort of conscious wrongdoing that hurt the claimant. Drunk driving cases, for example, can include punitive damages, especially if the defendant was objectively and subjectively aware of the risk and potential harm, but proceeded with conscious indifference of such risk.
Do you have a personal injury claim in San Antonio and want to know how much it could be worth? Contact the eclectic and experienced team of attorneys here at Maloney Law Group, P.L.L.C. We would be happy to discuss your case during an initial consultation.