In most personal injury cases, injured parties will be entitled to essentially the same types of damages. The term “damages” refers to all of the ways in which an injured person can and should be placed in the position he or she was in had the negligent act not occurred. These monetary damages are typically paid to the claimant or plaintiff as compensation for loss or injury.
Damages a claimant can demand in their personal injury claim can be sorted into two categories: special damages and general damages. Let’s take a closer look at each to get a better understanding of what they are and why someone would list each in their injury claim.
What are Special Damages?
Special damages are specific, identifiable economic losses an injured person has suffered as a result of someone else’s negligence.
Although not exhaustive, the following are examples of special damages:
- Property damage: Property damage typically refers to any personal property that is damaged as a result of the negligent act. In automobile accident cases, this is most obviously damage to the injured person’s vehicle. This might also include items inside of a vehicle, though, such as a car seat or items that were tossed around and broken as a result of the accident.
- Medical expenses: In virtually all personal injury cases, the injured person will need medical care and treatment for those injuries. All of the costs associated with this medical care are damages that the person should receive compensation to cover their costs. For example, in an automobile accident where the injured person was transported from the scene of the accident by ambulance, had emergency room care, and needed follow-up medical care with an orthopedic surgeon and a physical therapist, all of the medical bills as a result of that treatment are special damages that should be awarded to them.
- Future medical expenses: Medical expenses also include any medical care and treatment that will probably be incurred in the future. For example, if a person suffers a serious knee injury that is surgically repaired and the orthopedic surgeon states that the patient will probably need a total knee replacement 15 years in the future, the cost of that future knee surgery is recoverable.
- Lost earnings: The term “lost earnings” means all wages or benefits lost as a result of the injury. For example, if a person was not able to work for one month after a vehicle accident, they will have lost earnings for that month. Lost earnings also include loss of earnings capacity, which means lost earnings that will continue into the future. For another example, if a person’s injuries require that they will need future surgeries and will miss time from work because of the surgery and post-operative recovery, they will have compensable lost earnings for the time they miss from work in the future.
What are General Damages?
General damages are non-economic losses that originate from the negligent act that caused an injury. This basically means any way in which a person’s life was affected as a result of the negligent act other than the special damages listed above.
The following are some of the most common types of general damages:
- Physical pain and suffering: Any pain a person suffers as a result of injuries sustained in an accident or a negligently-caused injury must be assigned a specific dollar amount. The more serious the injury and the more significant the pain, the higher the dollar value that a jury or insurance company will assign to that part of the case. It is important to have a skilled attorney who has experience in these matters to evaluate what dollar amount is acceptable.
- Physical disfigurement: This typically refers to scarring or an injury that disfigures a person in some way. For example, if a person slips and falls in a store and hits his or her face on a corner display that results in a serious cut on the face, even after the cut heals and does not cause any more pain, the fact that the scar remains is a recoverable damage. Damages for permanent scars and lifelong disfigurements can be quite significant.
- Impact on activity levels/daily life: Physical injuries will typically limit or even eliminate many activities that a person would typically engage in. All of these limitations are recoverable. For example, if a person suffers a broken leg that requires surgical intervention to correct, they will likely have the leg completely immobilized for a period of time and will probably need to use crutches. The most obvious impact would be an inability to walk but it is possible to identify all of the activities that person would not be able to engage in during the healing process. That is a recoverable element of damages.
Choose an Experienced Attorney to Build Your Claim
While the above list of potential damages is not exhaustive, it provides a good example of the types of damages that are recoverable in personal injury cases. As always, it is important to choose an attorney who is experienced in the type of case a person has since all of the damages must be appropriately presented. Many times, this will involve the use of appropriate experts and lay witnesses.
At The Law Offices of Schurmer and Wood, we pride ourselves on our abilities to demand an accurate and full amount of damages on behalf of our personal injury clients. To calculate special and general damages, we use our extensive legal experience and close connections with parties like local doctors throughout the greater Oxnard region. If you want the help of a law firm of our caliber, please call us at (805) 470-1628 today to learn more about your rights and our services.