Categories of Damages In Personal Injury Cases
If you’ve suffered an injury, property damage, or experienced a loss, you may find it appropriate to seek compensation at the hands of the at-fault party. This type of compensation is legally defined as, “damages.” If you are successful in your civil lawsuit for personal injury, you may collect damages from the defendant. Intended to attempt to return the plaintiff to his/her prior state of life or compensate for an inability to do so, damages are awarded with the purpose of making the plaintiff “whole” again. The various types of damages that can be awarded in a case are dependent upon numerous factors, including the type of case, the circumstances of the victim’s injury, and the laws of the state in which the injury or loss occurred.
The two most basic categories in which damages are organized are compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages aim to repay an injured party for losses suffered. These types of damages are available in majority of personal injury cases, including but not limited to medical malpractice, auto accident, and slip and fall cases. Compensatory damages may then be divided further into general and special damages. Special damages include economic losses. General damages include noneconomic losses, such as emotional distress and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded only when the defendant’s behavior toward the injured party was emphatically reprehensible. Typical examples of a case in which punitive damages might be awarded include: if the defendant is found guilty of wanton, malicious acts, or fraud; if the defendant is guilty of acts such as aggravated battery, sexual assault, or fraudulent behavior, resulting in extensive financial detriment; if the defendant is involved in the production or selling of defective products; if the defendant is associated with or to blame for health risks linked with prescription drugs that have negatively affected the injured party.
#1. Compensation For Medical Bills
If you have experienced physical injury and required medical care as a result of your accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical expenses. In a personal injury case, if the plaintiff has required and received any type of medical care or treatment, including hospital visits, nursing home stays, or physical therapy, the defendant must pay the costs of these medical bills. This has a tendency to add up in a personal injury case, specifically in cases in which the plaintiff has become permanently affected. For example, if following the accident, the plaintiff requires the use of adaptive devices or lifelong nursing care, the defendant will have to pay for the full sum of these expenses. The defendant will additionally be responsible for the costs of any future medical attention. The medical portion of damages should include any and all expenses incurred by the accident.
#2. Lost Wages
In a personal injury case, compensation for any lost wages the plaintiff has experienced is a supplementary aspect of a damages award. Under this category falls payment for any work missed as a direct result of the plaintiff’s injury or any medical care he/she required due to the injury. This also includes compensation for any vacation time or sick days lost. Furthermore, if the plaintiff has suffered an injury that will sustain over the course of his/her lifetime, the defendant is thus responsible for the lost wages the plaintiff would have earned over his/her lifetime. This is applicable if the plaintiff is permanently unable to work or has been injured in such a way that reduces his/her ability to earn wages.
#3. Pain & Suffering
In court, juries are likely to award especially large damages for this aspect—pain and suffering. Pain and suffering includes compensation for the non-economical losses you have incurred as a result of your accident. Because of the large damages likely to be awarded by a jury in court, insurance companies wish to settle out of court more often than not. Because it is difficult to place a dollar figure on the pain and suffering experienced as a result of an accident, there are specific factors that affect the amount of compensation received. These factors assist an insurance company in deciding on adequate compensation, including they type of injury suffered and the type of medical attention required to treat the injury. Read our article, “What Affects Pain & Suffering Damages,” to learn more concerning the factors contributing to pain and suffering damages and what you can do to make certain you’re fully compensated.
#4. Emotional Distress
Compensation for the emotional ramifications experienced by the plaintiff as a direct result of the accident is another aspect of a damages award. Proof of emotional distress includes things like psychiatric records and, if emotionally disturbed to this extent, a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
#5. Wrongful Death
Wrongful death lawsuits may be brought on by family members of victims involved in an accident or injury resulting in death. This accident or injury must be the consequence of another’s negligence or intentional bad act. The family of the victim must have the standing to bring a wrongful death action. Spouses are qualified to bring a wrongful death action in every state, and the parents of minors are, as well. However, there are differing rules in various states for whether parents can sue for wrongful death on behalf of mature children. There are also varying rules within each state for suing on behalf of siblings, cousins, or distant relatives for wrongful death.
#6. Loss of Companionship/Loss of Consortium
Loss of companionship or loss of consortium is an action that may be brought by the distraught family of an individual who has been killed or permanently, significantly altered by accident or injury. This is extremely specific in a majority of states and may compensate a spouse if he/she has lost a physically intimate relationship with the victim. This category of damages serves to compensate family members for a lack of relationship to the victim as a result of accident or injury.
#7. Punitive Damages
Note: Punitive damages are not allowed in all cases nor are they allowed in all states. When punitive damages are allowed and applicable, their purpose is not similar to the above stated category of damages. Contrary to the previously named categories of damages, punitive damages serve the purpose of punishing the defendant for heinous, deplorable behavior. Punitive damages are meant to act as a deterrent for the intolerable acts committed by the defendant.
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