The purpose of tort law is to provide legal remedies for those who have suffered a loss due to the actions of others. In most cases, the legal remedy involves monetary compensation for the losses. With that said, most people have a limited understanding of injury compensation.
When talking to a lawyer from The Barnes Firm, they said, “Most people know that recovering compensation is a part of a personal injury claim, but they might not realize that there are several different types of damages. Depending on the case, a claimant might be able to recover compensation for a wide array of losses.”
The circumstances of the case will determine the types of compensation a claimant has the right to recover. However, it can be helpful to understand the different types of compensation that may be available. This can give the individual a clearer idea of their rights to compensation and the value of the claim.
The purpose of compensatory damages is to compensate the claimant for damages. While the compensatory damages can cover a variety of different types of losses, there are two broad categories: special compensatory damages and general compensatory damages.
Special Compensatory Damages
Special damages cover monetary losses. If you have been injured as the result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another person or entity, you are likely to suffer all sorts of monetary losses.
Medical expenses are one of the more common types of special compensatory damages. This could cover the cost of doctor visits, hospital bills, prescription drugs, mobility devices, medical imaging, and physical therapy.
Even beyond the claimant’s current medical bills, future medical expenses can also be a part of special damages. If there is a reasonable expectation that you will need future treatment to address the injuries, you can include that in the claim as well.
Lost income is another common form of special compensatory damages. Injuries can often result in time away from work. If you are unable to work while you are recovering from the injuries, those losses would be included in the claim as well.
Just like with medical expenses, future costs can be accounted for when it comes to lost earnings. If there is an expectation the individual will have a diminished earning capacity in the future, the expected losses can be included in the claim.
General Compensatory Damages
General damages are a type of compensation for losses that are not connected to a specific dollar value. With special damages, you can assess the monetary value by supplying things like medical bills or pay stubs. With general damages, you are looking at real losses that will affect the life of the claimant, but they don’t have any documentation to support their value.
One common type of general damage is pain and suffering. If the claimant experiences considerable pain and suffering as the result of the injury, that is a real form of damage. Even if it does not have a financial figure attached, the claimant should be able to recover compensation.
Loss of enjoyment can also be considered in general damages. The claimant might not be able to enjoy activities that were a part of their life before the accident. While it might not be financial in nature, that is still a type of loss.
There are several different types of general compensatory damages. In addition to the ones mentioned above, some cases might involve damages like mental anguish, loss of consortium, disfigurement, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
Though much less common, punitive damages are another type of damages that may be involved in a personal injury claim. With punitive damages, the claimant is not being compensated for a loss. Instead, punitive damages are sought as a form of punishment leveled against the liable party.
While having to pay compensatory damages might feel like a punishment, it is really just a way to address the losses inflicted upon the claimant. Punitive damages serve no purpose as it regards the losses suffered by the victim. The sole purpose of this type of award is to add a financial penalty on top of fair compensation.
Most lawyers will only go after punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was reckless to an extreme degree or if there was a clear disregard for the wellbeing of others. With this type of compensation, the additional penalty is not only seen as a punishment to the defendant, it is also intended to act as a deterrent to others who may act in similar ways.
A wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim in some ways. With wrongful death lawsuits, the survivors have a way to recover compensation to address the loss of a loved one. Just like with personal injury claims, there can be damages that are both monetary and non-monetary.
Some of the monetary damages might include medical expenses that resulted from an accident that led to the death of the individual. A claim could also include the burial and funeral expenses for the decedent.
Wrongful death claims can also include the earnings and support provided by the victim. As an example, a spouse can recover compensation for the lost earnings of their partner.
Non-monetary damages can also be a significant part of a wrongful death claim. Depending on the circumstances, the claim could include damages for loss of companionship, mental anguish, and other types of non-monetary damages.
The Value of Compensation
Calculating the value of personal injury damages can be difficult. First, you have to determine the different types of damages to which the claimant is entitled. After that, you have to assess the value of the different types of damages included in the claim.
Determining the value of most special compensatory damages is straightforward. Since the claimant will have medical bills and recent pay stubs, the calculation should be simple. With that said, there can be issues when it comes to determining the value of future medical expenses and diminished earning capacity.
Disputes can arise when it comes to the calculation of special damages. It is legitimate to ask how one might put a monetary value on things like pain or a loss of enjoyment. Attorneys usually have formulas they might use to calculate general damages.
Assessing the compensation for an injury claim can be complex. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the types of compensation, you could end up settling for less money. Consulting with an attorney may be the best way to make sure you understand your rights.