Politics and Business

7 Types of Damages in Personal Injury

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Personal injury, in a legal sense, is a way to protect people if they are injured or harmed due to someone else’s actions or failure to act. Personal injury can also be a way to protect property, and this area of the law is known as tort law also. If someone is successful in their tort action, the person who caused damages or harm compensates the person who, as a result, suffered losses. 

Car accidents are one of the main examples of personal injury cases. If you live in what’s known as a fault state, you have a claim for negligence if you’re hurt by a driver who didn’t exercise reasonable care. This is because drivers have the duty to use reasonable care any time they’re on the road. If the duty is breached and there’s an injury that results from it, personal injury law says you have the right to recoup your losses. 

In personal injury, you are seeking compensation from whoever caused or contributed to your losses, and legally, the compensation is known as damages

There are two general categories or types of damages in personal injury—compensatory and punitive. Compensatory are much more commonly awarded. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, and they’re meant as a form of punishment rather than making someone financially “whole” again. 

With that in mind, the following are specifically seven types of damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases. 

Monetary losses

Under the larger umbrella of monetary losses are the following possible compensatory damages:

  • Medical expenses: Damages for medical costs might include the costs of past, current, and future medical care and rehabilitation. The future costs can be calculated by estimating what someone’s medical needs might be for the rest of their life. Medical expenses can include hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, the costs of diagnostic tests, devices, and nursing care. 
  • Living with a disability: If someone is injured, it can lead to a permanent or temporary disability that requires the victim of an accident to need to significantly change their lifestyle. Compensatory damages can cover the costs that come with those changes. As an example, someone might need to pay for someone to come to their home and provide care and assistance, or they could have to modify their home to make it more accessible after an accident. 
  • Lost wages: if a victim of an accident misses time from work as they’re recovering from their injuries, then they might be able to recover lost wages. There’s also the opportunity to recover lost earning capacity that is the result of an injury, which would be your future earnings if it weren’t for the accident. 
  • Property loss: If your vehicle, clothing, or other items were damaged because of the accident, you might be able to receive reimbursement for repairs or for replacement of the property that was lost based on fair market value. 
  • Funeral expenses: If someone dies because of their injuries in an accident, the family of the victim may be able to recover costs of the funeral expenses. 

Non-Monetary Losses

Non-monetary losses are tougher to calculate and can be more subjective than monetary losses. The damages for non-monetary losses can include:

  • Pain and suffering: Damages for pain and suffering can include compensation for the actual physical pain someone might feel after an accident, but also for their emotional distress and suffering. Emotional distress can include anger, fear, and loss of enjoyment of life because of an injury they sustain. 
  • Loss of consortium: If a personal injury victim has a spouse, for example, they might receive damages stemming from the loss of emotional elements of their relationship, like loss of affection, companionship, assistance, and a sexual relationship. 

Punitive Damages

As mentioned, punitive damages are somewhat rare in personal injury cases. They’re reserved for situations where the conduct of the defendant is found to be especially careless or egregious. If this is the case, the plaintiff in the personal injury case might be awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. 

While they are awarded to the plaintiff who’s injured, punitive damages are meant to be a punishment to serve as a deterrent against similar behavior in the future. 

A lot of states have caps on how much can be awarded in punitive damages in personal injury cases. 

How the Actions of the Plaintiff Can Affect Their Award of Damages

If someone is hurt, but they played a role in causing the accident, or they didn’t take certain actions after they were injured, they might see their available damages go down as a result. 

In one situation, there’s comparative negligence. If a plaintiff is even partially at fault for the accident causing their injuries, then their damage award will show that. Most states follow the comparative negligence standard, which links their damages to their degree of fault in their accident or injuries. 

A few states follow a contributory negligence standard. You might not be eligible to recover any compensation even if you played a small part in the accident. 

Another concept is a failure to mitigate your damages after an accident. The law in the majority of states expects that if you’re the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you take certain reasonable steps to mitigate the financial impact of the harm from the accident. If you don’t do anything that a reasonable person would do, like getting treatment after your injuries and then making your injuries worse as a result, then your damages award may be reduced and sometimes significantly. 

As you can tell, it can all get confusing in personal injury law, which is why people most often work with professional attorneys. An attorney can help someone understand what the value of their case might be and help them decide whether it’s wise to move forward. Calculating potential compensation requires someone who’s an expert in this legal area, and there are a lot of factors that go into it. 

By understanding the types of compensation and damages you may be entitled to, you can more effectively navigate the situation after an accident.

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