If you are planning to file a personal injury claim, you are likely curious about the value of your claim and the types of damages or compensation you may be eligible to receive. There are several types of damages in a personal injury case that are broken down into compensatory damages (special and general damages) and punitive damages. Virtually all personal injury claims involve compensatory damages whereas punitive damages are rare. With wrongful death claims, unique forms of damages are also available.
This overview explains the types of damages that you may be entitled to when you file a personal injury claim.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages are intended to make a victim whole and compensate for the harm suffered as the result of someone else’s negligence. Compensatory damages are available in almost every injury case, but here are unique types of compensatory damages available in wrongful death claims.
There are two types of compensatory damages: special damages and general damages.
Special compensatory damages are the most typical type of damages in a personal injury case and they are meant to reimburse a victim for economic or financial expenses. Special damages are specific to every case and there is no limit on the amount of special damages that may be awarded. Special damages may include:
- Medical expenses (including future expenses)
- Lost earnings
- Reduced earning capacity (if disabled)
- Loss of future earnings (if permanently unable to work)
- Cost of changing plans
- Other damages such as some household expenses
Medical expenses usually account for the majority of special damages in a personal injury claim. Just remember that you may be required to turn over at least a portion of your special damages to a hospital (in the case of a medical lien) or your health insurance provider (if they paid medical bills before your settlement was awarded).
The other type of compensatory damages is designed to reimburse you for non-economic damages from the accident. General damages are usually available in personal injury claims and they may include:
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
Several factors can increase general damages, most notably how painful, long-lasting, disabling, and/or disfiguring the injuries are. Most insurance companies use a formula to calculate general damages as a starting point to negotiate. In most cases, this involves adding up your special damages (including lost wages and medical expenses) and multiplying it by 1.5 to 5, depending on how severe your injuries are from the accident.
Punitive damages are rare and awarded in some jury cases. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for especially malicious or egregious behavior. Most personal injury cases do not involve punitive damages.
Compensation for Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases can involve many types of unique compensation as these claims are about compensating family members and dependents, not the person who suffered the harm. Wrongful death damages can include:
- Medical expenses prior to death
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of financial contribution
- Emotional distress
- Loss of support and services
- Loss of companionship
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
There is no way to calculate the exact value of a personal injury case, although an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand the types of damages you can receive and estimate the value of a fair settlement and what you may receive at trial. Remember that damages vary a great deal depending on the circumstances of the case, whether you suffered a disability or disfigurement, the severity of the injuries, and more. Your injury lawyer will help you protect your best interests and negotiate with the insurance company to reach a fair settlement amount that compensates you fully for your injuries.