The Vastness of the Law

Understanding General, Special, And Punitive Damages In Injury Cases

When a personal injury attorney talks with a prospective client about how much money might be involved in a case, the term "damages" comes up a lot. This is the money that's awarded as compensation to the claimant or plaintiff. Nearly all damages in injury cases fall into the categories of general and special compensation, and a handful of cases may also include punitive damages. Here is a look at what these three types of damages are and how they might figure into your case.

General Compensation

A payment made specifically to make up for the injuries someone has suffered is considered to be part of their general compensation. Although it may feel gruesome to consider such a scenario, a personal injury attorney services firm might have to help a client seek compensation for an injury experienced in an incident. The loss of mobility or of other functions is considered compensable, and that loss is all that's being paid for.

Similarly, you'll have the right to seek compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional trauma arising from the incident. The loss of consortium with your spouse is compensable, as is the more general loss of the ability to enjoy your life.

Related medical expenses don't go here. They fall into the next category.

Special Compensation

Depending on just how much in the way of economic losses a person experienced, this category can end up accounting for the bulk of the compensation a client receives. Special compensation covers things like medical bills, therapy expenses, and the projected cost of long-term care.

This category also includes compensation for many follow-on issues from an injury. For example, you'll likely be able to seek economic damages for losses like wages, future earning potential, consortium with your spouse, and household expenses. You may even have the right to pursue damages to cover something like a trip that had to be canceled. In other words, special compensation covers the highly quantifiable effects of an incident.

Punitive Damages

With the exception of a small number of jury cases, punitive damages are never awarded. Insurance companies specifically avoid going to court in some cases for fear of punitive damages.

As the term suggests, punitive damages are meant to punish wrongdoing. Suppose a landlord refused to fix a rail in an apartment complex even after someone had already been hurt, and then a second person was hurt and sued. A jury might award punitive damages to make the point that the landlord's behavior was simply unacceptable by any standard.