When an individual is involved in an accident that was caused by another party’s negligence, and the victim sustains a physical injury, property destruction or other losses, the injured person can seek compensation for the harm sustained. The legal concept is to restore an individual to the same condition in which he or she existed before the accident.
For example, if a husband and wife were traveling on the highway when someone ran a stop sign and caused a horrible collision, the couple may file a car accident lawsuit against the negligent driver and ask for the payment of damages to fix the automobile, pay for doctor and hospital bills, repay lost wages, and cover pain and suffering. The term “damages” can be used to refer to this type of compensation.
What Are Lawsuit Damages?
There are two categories of damages in personal injury lawsuits. One is called compensatory, and the second is called punitive. While there can be a variety of damages referred to as being compensatory, there are two main categories: general damages and special damages.
The purpose of compensatory damages is to compensate or reimburse an injured person for the hurt they have suffered. In nearly all injury lawsuits, this type of compensation for damages is available. This would include cases such as medical malpractice, slip and falls, and auto accidents. Even in a wrongful death case, compensatory damages may be awarded.
Punitive damages are not directly connected to the kind of harm suffered by the victim, but rather are given to punish the negligent party for egregious behavior that caused harm. The compensatory and punitive damages awarded by the court go directly to the plaintiff who was injured.
Personal Injury Damages
When one party brings a lawsuit against another individual or business because an injury or loss occurred, this is referred to as a personal injury lawsuit. Damages are requested by the injured party as compensation for the negligence that caused the injury. Special compensatory damages may also be requested to cover any loss or expense related to the accident or injury. There is no limit on the kind of special damage claims a victim can make and there is no limit to the total amount of compensation a victim can claim.
A list of the most common types of special damages are:
- Repair and replacement of property damage
- Lost wages and loss of future earnings capacity
- Medical expenses
- Loss of irreplaceable items
- Costs connected to altered plans or canceled trips
The term “general damages” refers to the type of harm that “generally” occurs in an injury situation. These general damages are awarded by the court to give compensation to an injured party for the non-monetary damages suffered in the accident. It is typically expected that every personal injury victim will have some general damages. Common types of general damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of personal enjoyment
- Loss of consortium (companionship of a spouse)
Damages for Wrongful Death
In the case of a wrongful death lawsuit, damages that are awarded by the court go to surviving loved ones and family members. The most common damages in wrongful death cases include:
- Medical and funeral expenses incurred due to wrongful death
- Level of survivors’ dependence
- Deceased’s estate and savings
- Victim’s income
- Loss of companionship/family, plus pain and suffering (punitive)
The damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can vary based on the cause of death and the specific case details. For example, in a car accident where a person was killed by a drunk driver, liability can be easily determined. The plaintiffs in this car accident case who file a wrongful death claim will likely receive the entire insurance amount listed in the policy. However, a defective medical device case where a patient died is not enough to establish negligence and liability. It must be proven that the medical device was defective and many other parties may be involved. In addition, the court has the ability to determine how much suffering the deceased endured before death and factor this into the compensation amount.
Only when the negligent party’s wrongful behavior is reprehensible will a court award punitive damages to a victim. If, for example, a defendant committed wanton, malicious or fraudulent acts, then punitive damages will likely be awarded. Examples of such actions could include sexual assault, acts of fraud that caused major financial harm, or aggravated battery. Several juries have awarded punitive damages against manufacturers with “deep pockets” who are guilty of producing defective products or harmful prescription drugs.
Who Decides the Damages?
In criminal court cases, the court sets specific guidelines for sentencing. In a civil trial, the judge or jury weighs the evidence to determine if the defendant is legally responsible for the alleged damages.
Collecting Your Lawsuit Damages
When a judge/jury has awarded a judgment in court or when a settlement is reached without trial, the plaintiff is now entitled to the damages that have been awarded. However, it is one thing to be awarded damages and quite another thing to actually collect the money.
The defendant ordered to pay damages might be unable or unwilling to pay. If there is liability coverage through an insurance company, the company will usually pay, up to the policy limit. In order to force payment, sometimes the plaintiff’s lawyer has to put a lien on the defendant’s property or garnish the defendant’s wages, or look for undisclosed assets the defendant has not declared. Until the damages amount is paid in full, interest is likely accruing.
Are You Looking for a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Those who have been injured or suffered a death in the family due to the negligence of another party have the option of filing a lawsuit for financial compensation. If you need professional and skilled legal representation, contact Dash Injury Law Firm.
Our legal team can provide you with a free case evaluation and our trusted lawyers will work with you throughout the entire litigation process.
We help negotiate fair settlements with defendants and insurance companies so you can focus on your recovery and going about your everyday life. You deserve to recover the damages you have suffered, call 888-(DASH-LAW) today.
- AllLaw. “Special & General Damages in Your Personal Injury Case”, NOLO, https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/personal-injury/special-general-damages.html. Accessed July 21, 2020.
- Julia Kagan. “Compensatory Damages”, Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/compensatory-damages.asp. Accessed July 21, 2020.
- Justia. “Punitive Damages”, Justia, https://www.justia.com/injury/negligence-theory/punitive-damages/. Accessed July 21, 2020.
- Law.com. “Damages”, The People’s Law Dictionary, https://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=423#:~:text=n.,be%20awarded%20in%20a%20lawsuit.&text=Special%20damages%20are%20those%20which,money%20due%20on%20a%20contract.. Accessed July 21, 2020.
- Legal Information Institute. “Damages”, Cornell Law School, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/damages. Accessed July 21, 2020.
- Will Kenton. “Civil Damages”, Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/civil-damages.asp. Accessed July 21, 2020.