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Understanding the Different Types of Personal Injury Damages

Someone injured in an accident often wonders what their personal injury claim is worth. The key to that question is the types of personal injury damages. The responsible party pays damages to the injured person in an accident or other event. The damage award can be negotiated between attorneys for the injured person and the responsible party’s insurance company or attorneys. If a negotiated settlement isn’t possible, the attorney may file a personal injury lawsuit, and the court may award personal injury damages.

Here’s a guide to help you understand the types of damages that might be relevant in your personal injury claim. A personal injury lawyer can help the injured person recover these damages.

Damages in personal injury claims are divided into two types: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Unlike non-economic damages, compensatory damages reimburse the expenses associated with the case. Essentially, compensatory damages help make the injured person whole after a car accident.

Compensatory damages are of two types: special damages and general damages. Special compensatory damages are economic damages that are easily quantifiable. They cover out-of-pocket expenses.

Here are some of the most common types of special compensatory damages.

Medical Expenses

Most personal injury claims include a request that the responsible party pays the injured person’s medical bills. The medical bills can be for expenses already incurred, and those the injured will likely incur in the future. The medical bills can be from any medical professional, such as a doctor, lab, physical therapist, or chiropractor, as long as they are related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

Throughout the personal injury process, the injured person should keep track of receipts associated with:

  • Hospital bills
  • Lab tests
  • Medical treatment and expenses related to medical appointments
  • Physical therapy and rehab
  • Prescription medicines
  • Costs of at-home care
  • Ambulance costs
  • Increases in living expenses due to the injury

Property Damage

Personal injury claims also include compensation for the loss of your personal property. For example, claims from car accidents typically also include repair or replacement costs for the vehicle you were driving. A property damage claim from a workplace accident might include damage to clothing or other personal property.

Lost Wages

Injured people often miss a considerable amount of time from work to heal and to keep medical appointments. Personal injury cases will include documentation of wages lost because of lost work time.

In the case of a serious injury, someone may experience a loss of earning capacity. A loss of earning capacity is the difference between what you would have earned over your career if the injury had never happened and what you can earn post-injury. For example, suppose you are a carpenter, and you sustained spinal cord injuries because of medical malpractice or the negligence of another motorist. Your ability to earn a living as a carpenter is permanently impacted. Loss of earning capacity is meant to provide financial compensation for your loss.

Expenses Associated with Canceled Events

Consider the case of someone who paid for a cruise they had planned to take. However, the injury prevented them from taking the trip. Their personal injury case would include a request for reimbursement for the cost of the trip not taken.

General Compensatory Damages

In addition to special compensatory damages, personal injury cases also include general compensatory damages. Common types of general damages are:

  • Pain and suffering. Damages for pain and suffering include physical pain and mental anguish now and in the future. Examples of mental anguish include post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, depression, or emotional distress.
  • Lower quality of life. Sometimes injured people are unable to enjoy life the way they did before the accident. One example might be the case of someone whose arm or leg was amputated. They can recover damages for the lost quality of life.

Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims

Punitive damages are above and beyond actual expenses and are designed to punish the party for negligence. Courts are more likely to award punitive damages if the person or institution was grossly negligent or behaved badly. Punitive damages can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, depending upon the circumstances.

Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

Relatives of deceased persons can recover damages if the person dies due to the carelessness of others. Wrongful death claims can occur as a result of automobile accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice cases. A personal injury attorney can help family members recover these damages.

  • Funeral expenses. Funerals are expensive. Indeed, the average cost of a funeral was between $6,971 and $7,848 in 2021. Reimbursement can help cover the costs of the funeral.
  • Cost of medical treatment before the death. Often the person will incur significant medical bills before dying from their injuries. Wrongful death damages will reimburse the cost of this medical treatment.
  • Loss of consortium or companionship. Loss of consortium is a legal term that refers to the loss of a relationship due to the death of a loved one. The deceased’s spouse often receives compensation for the emotional distress involved in losing their loved one.
  • Loss of financial contribution. A family or spouse will sustain a future financial loss because the deceased can no longer earn money. Damages compensate for this future lost income.
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish. These damages help family members receive counseling and other support to move forward after the death of a loved one.

Types of Personal Injury Claims That Can Recover Damages

Several types of personal injury claims can recover damages. Any incident in which someone is injured because of another’s negligence could result in compensatory and punitive damages. Common types of personal injury claims are:

  • Car accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Boating accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Bike accidents
  • Workplace injuries can include accidents or health problems associated with long-term exposure to toxins. An example is asbestos exposure
  • Injuries from a manufacturing defect in a piece of equipment or building
  • Food poisoning
  • Medical malpractice

What Affects the Damages Amount

Several factors can affect the damages the court will award in a personal injury case. Some of them include:

  • The details of the accident or event
  • The amount of actual financial loss
  • The extent of the injuries
  • The defendant’s conduct and whether the conduct constituted gross negligence
  • The credibility of the plaintiff (or injured party). For example, did the injured person sustain the injury they claim, and did they cooperate with medical advice to try to heal from their injury?

How To Collect The Full Value Of Your Personal Injury Claim

If you’ve been injured or a relative has died because of the negligence of others, you are entitled to personal injury damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you with the process of filing your personal injury case. They can advise you on the actions you should take and avoid right after the accident. They understand how to negotiate a settlement with your insurance company and, if necessary, file a personal injury lawsuit.

To ensure the best outcome, personal injury victims should talk with their attorneys as soon as possible after the accident. In particular, they should speak with the attorney before they make statements to the insurance company or the other party. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation and accept cases on a contingency basis, meaning you’ll only pay if they obtain a settlement.

1-800AskGary is a referral service that can connect you with a medical professional and a lawyer experienced in managing personal injury cases. You may find a free legal consultation! 1-800AskGary is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can make referrals to professionals in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Florida.