When a plaintiff suffers harm and/or financial loss due to a defendant’s negligence, they may have grounds to seek compensation via a civil lawsuit. Financial compensation comes in the form of “damages,” and there are many types of damages that a plaintiff can seek from a civil lawsuit. The main two types of damages that plaintiffs can seek in a civil trial are called special and general damages. You may be wondering, what are special damages, and what are general damages? Below, our legal team breaks down everything you need to know about seeking compensation in a civil lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury, wrongful death, financial loss, or any other type of harm, you have grounds to hire a civil lawyer. At Curcio Law Offices, our legal team handles all sorts of civil claims, including personal injury cases, wrongful death cases, medical malpractice cases, and so much more. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation at our Chicago law firm today.
What Are Damages?
Before we begin breaking down types of damages, it’s important to have a full understanding of what damages are.
When someone has committed a tort, this means they have caused a person some type of harm due to their negligence. Harm could mean many things, such as personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, or even a damaged reputation. In a tort claim, the person who has suffered harm will seek damages, which is basically monetary compensation for the type of harm they suffered. There are countless types of damages that people can suffer and then seek compensation for in personal injury claims. The main two categories of compensatory damages we’ll discuss today are special and general damages.
What Are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?
Special damages are also known as economic damages. That’s because special damages refer to losses that have a specific monetary value in a personal injury claim. For example, special damages could be all the out-of-pocket expenses someone suffers as a result of their car accident injuries. A personal injury attorney and/or insurance company agent would calculate the exact dollar figure relating to the plaintiff’s injuries so that they won’t suffer immense financial instability while recovering from a traumatic accident.
Types of Special Damages
The exact type of financial losses someone may suffer will vary depending on the type of harm they suffered.
We will continue to use the car accident example here. Let’s say a drunk driver runs a red light and t-bones another driver at an intersection. The driver suffers a completely totaled car as well as numerous broken bones, whiplash, and a mild traumatic brain injury (a concussion). This means they will be in and out of the doctor’s office for several months, spending a fortune on medical treatments, medications, and even surgeries to repair the broken bones and treat their head and neck injuries. Not only will the car accident victim have to spend a fortune on medical treatment, but they will also have to miss work for several weeks or months while they recover.
Let’s also say that an insurance claim is not enough to cover all the accident-related expenses. The combination of all these financial losses (medical bills, damaged property, and lost wages) is enough to put anyone into debt for years. So the victim decides to move forward with a personal injury case in order to receive full compensation for their out-of-pocket expenses. Their personal injury attorney would help them recover the following types of special damages:
- Medical Expenses: This may include the ambulance ride costs, emergency room costs, medication costs, surgery costs, physical therapy costs, and other medical treatment costs. Medical expenses can also include future medical care, if the victim’s injuries lead to lifelong disability or pain.
- Mental Health Care Costs: Car accidents are incredibly traumatic, especially if they lead to numerous injuries. Dealing with the trauma of the accident and the trauma of physical injury may require professional counseling. Not only that, but our victim in this example has suffered a concussion. Concussions can cause numerous mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Special damages could fully compensate the victim for their mental health counseling sessions.
- Lost Income: Lost wages can include the time spent recovering from injuries as well as loss of earning capacity if the victim’s injuries prevent them from completing their normal job duties once they return to work.
- Household Costs: Let’s say the victim lives with their spouse. While they’re healing from their injuries, they are not able to cook, clean, or even bathe themselves without help. As a result, the spouses may decide to hire a temporary house cleaning service and/or ask loved ones to help them cook daily meals, especially if they can’t afford to eat out with all the extra medical bills. Personal injury claims can award damages for this.
- Property-Related Damages: The victim suffered damaged property in the form of a totaled car during the accident. Special damages in a personal injury case could compensate them for rental car costs, Uber costs, and/or car replacement costs.
Calculating Special Damages
Special damages are much easier to calculate than general damages because they are based on a legitimate dollar amount. So all you and your personal injury lawyer would have to do is collect all of your medical bills, counseling bills, property damage costs, and lost wages and add them all up.
The only complicated part would be calculating the costs of future lost wages, loss of earning capacity, or future medical care. Even still, these calculations are no impossible feat with the combination of an experienced lawyer, expert witnesses, and other evidence.
What Are General Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?
General damages are also called noneconomic damages because they don’t have an exact dollar amount. Although non economic damages are basically intangible losses that can’t be monetarily quantified, that doesn’t mean the plaintiff shouldn’t be compensated for these damages.
Types of General Damages
Again, the type of general damages someone suffers will vary depending on the type of accident they endured.
We’ll continue using the same car crash example from above. Let’s say this car crash victim suffered a variety of intangible losses including:
- Emotional Distress: This could be the trauma of the crash itself, the trauma of their injuries, the mental anguish over crash-related financial losses, and the mental health issues they suffered as a direct result of their concussion.
- Physical Pain and Suffering: Suffering from numerous broken bones, whiplash, and a concussion at the same time is incredibly painful. Not only are these injuries painful in the moment of the crash, but they are painful all throughout the entire healing process.
- Permanent Scarring, Disability, and/or Disfigurement: It’s very likely for this crash victim to suffer from all three of these permanent issues. Scarring, disability, and disfigurement can impact someone’s self-confidence, job performance, daily functionality, social life, and more. Victims deserve to be fully compensated for this harm suffered.
- Loss of Quality of Life: As a result of scarring, disability, and/or disfigurement, this crash victim may also suffer a decreased quality of life. General damages in a personal injury case can provide full compensation for this.
- Loss of Consortium means that an injured, deceased, or disabled spouse can no longer provide the same love, emotional support, intimate relations, comfort, or companionship that they could prior to their accident. Some personal injury cases are filed just based on the devastation of loss of consortium alone.
Calculating General Damages
Because general damages don’t come with a set price tag, calculating them is much more complicated than calculating special damages.
In order to most accurately calculate general damages, such as pain and suffering for example, personal injury attorneys will take several factors into account. Firstly, they will determine how severe the pain and suffering is in the personal injury case. Then, they will gather enough evidence to prove the severity of the pain and suffering, such as medical bills, counseling costs, witness statements, photos and videos of the injuries, etc.
From there, an experienced personal injury attorney will use the multiplier method or the per diem method to calculate your general damages. The most common method is the multiplier method, and it involves rating the non-economic damages on a scale of 1 to 5 and multiplying that number with your economic damages. Meanwhile, the per diem method involves assigning a specific dollar value to every single day the victim suffered in some way following their accident. The total dollar amount based on a certain number of days will essentially be the damage award.
Call Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers at Curcio Law Offices Today
If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury, wrongful death, and/or financial loss as a direct result of someone else’s negligence, you may have grounds to pursue legal action. The legal team at Curcio Law Offices has been handling all sorts of personal injury cases since 1957, including auto accidents, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and neglect, and so much more. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers have what it takes to fight for full compensatory damages on your behalf. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.