Suffering injuries in any accident caused by another’s negligence or carelessness can have devastating consequences. Whether a foodborne illness, a car wreck, an attack by an unleashed dog, or a fall in an icy parking lot caused you harm, you may be having difficulty getting your life back on track. Victims of severe accidents are often forced to grapple with hospital bills piling up while unable to work or earn any income. With the severe bodily pain, emotional trauma, and financial challenges that victims struggle with, obtaining fair compensation is often the only way to bounce back. Damages refer to the compensation that a victim’s attorney can recover for them either through negotiating a settlement or trying the case to a verdict. Special, general, and punitive damages are the three primary types of personal injury compensation.
Special damages, also popularly known as economic damages, are based on a victim’s actual costs incurred due to losses sustained in the accident. The purpose of these damages is to restore precisely what the victim lost and return them to their pre-accident standing. Since special damages are easily verifiable and proven by tangible evidence, the amount awarded is relatively straightforward. Some common examples of economic damages include:
- Hospital bills and other medical expenses;
- Expenses for repairing or replacing damaged property;
- Costs for rehabilitation and physical therapy;
- Prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs;
- Any required mobility devices or medical equipment;
- Lost earnings and other benefits from missing work;
- Other out-of-pocket expenditures, such as transportation to medical checkups; and
- Increased living expenses, like daycare or home modifications.
General damages, also commonly called non-economic damages, are more subjective and based on long-term effects. Although these damages are harder to assess, courts typically establish non-economic damages on the scope and severity of the victim’s injuries. Consequently, the more permanent and life-altering injuries a victim endures, the more significant general damages they will be awarded. Some common examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Severe scarring or disfigurement;
- Life-long disability;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of enjoyment in life;
- Loss of independence;
- Diminished future earning capacity; and
- Costs associated with future medical care for ongoing injuries.
As the name suggests, punitive damages punish defendants for their reckless conduct or gross negligence. Punitive or exemplary damages can be awarded at the court’s discretion when a defendant’s misconduct has displayed an extreme disregard for the consequences of their actions. These damages are not granted in every case, and mere negligence is insufficient to merit a punitive award. Exemplary damages are reserved for cases where the defendant acted with criminal indifference to their civic responsibilities. Courts typically award punitive damages to deter others from acting similarly and send a message that wanton negligence will not be tolerated.
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