Types of Personal Injury Compensation
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by the negligence or even intentional act of another, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit and seek compensation for the harm you’ve been caused. The legal term for the compensation you seek to receive in a personal injury case is “damages.” The exact amount of a personal injury damage award varies based on the unique circumstances of the case, as do the type of damages awarded.
In personal injury law, there are two broad categories of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages compensate the claimant for the costs associated with their injury and are the most common type of damages awarded in personal injury cases. Meanwhile, punitive damages seek to punish the party responsible for your harm and are awarded when the defendant’s behavior was particularly reckless. As such, punitive damages are awarded far less frequently than compensatory ones. While compensatory and punitive damages are the two overarching types of personal injury compensation, personal injury compensation gets even more specific than this. Below, we dive deeper into the most common types of personal injury compensation, including wrongful death damages, special compensatory (monetary) damages, and general compensatory (non-monetary) damages.
Compensation for Injury or Loss
The main purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is for the injured party to seek compensation (damages) for the harm they have been caused. The goal is to return the victim to the position they would have been in if the injury had never occurred; to make them “whole” again following the accident. In a personal injury lawsuit, a dollar amount is assigned to the victim’s injuries. This amount is what the victim is seeking to receive as compensation for their physical and/or emotional injuries. When compensation is awarded to the injured party in a personal injury case, it is referred to as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages can be broken down into two categories: special damages, which compensate victims for monetary losses, and general damages, which compensate victims for non-monetary losses.
Special compensatory damages are quantifiable expenses paid for or lost by the victim as a result of the accident. An award of special damages aims to reimburse the victim financially and there is no limit to the types of special damage claims that can be made. One of the most prominent examples of special damages is medical expenses. Medical expenses, both past and future, can be claimed and include everything from the cost of hospital bills, prescription medications, doctor’s appointments, and surgeries to the cost of physical therapy, rehabilitation, medical transportation such as ambulances, and at-home or nursing home caretaking. Other special compensatory damages are lost wages/loss of earning capacity, loss of career opportunities, loss of irreplaceable items such as a family heirloom, the repair or replacement of property that was damaged in the accident, and funeral expenses.
In contrast, general compensatory damages seek to compensate the injured party for non-monetary damages incurred. The way non-monetary damages are calculated varies significantly. General damages range from mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, loss of companionship, lower quality of life, inconvenience, physical disfigurement and impairment, and pain and suffering. Pain and suffering can be claimed if the accident caused emotional distress in the form of fear, frustration, or anger. Meanwhile, loss of companionship or consortium can be awarded in cases where the spouse of a personal injury victim is seeking damages for the loss of the emotional and intangible elements of partnership, such as affection and comfort.
Finally, wrongful death damages are sometimes put into their own category as they combine elements of both special and general compensatory damages. For example, wrongful death compensatory damages can range from funeral and burial costs and the cost of medical care before the instance of wrongful death to emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of companionship.
Personal Injury Compensation
Injured parties have a right to seek compensation for the physical and emotional injuries they have been caused due to the negligence or recklessness of another. A personal injury attorney will help you understand your legal options, file a personal injury claim, negotiate on your behalf, and most importantly, get you the compensation you deserve. Once a settlement has been reached or compensation has been awarded in court, the claimant is entitled to collect the money they’ve been awarded. However, it’s important to note that being awarded or receiving damages and actually collecting the money are two different things. In some instances, the defendant who is responsible for paying the damages may not be in a financial position to do so. This is where your attorney can help with the collection process by discovering undisclosed assets or even garnishing wages.
Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In personal injury cases, punitive damages are not intended to compensate the injured party. Rather, they are designed to punish the defendant for causing the victim’s injuries as a way of deterring others from engaging in similar behavior. Punitive damages are commonly awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious. For example, if the personal injury lawsuit is based on a car accident where the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or was checking their phone while driving, the judge could rule that punitive damages should be paid as the defendant made a conscious decision to behave in a way that could easily cause harm to another. Given that punitive damages are typically awarded in cases involving exceptionally reckless or malicious behavior, they are not awarded in every personal injury case. To avoid excessive punitive damages, courts often limit this type of damages to less than ten times the amount of compensatory damages.
As you now know, there are several types of personal injury compensation made available to claimants. From special compensatory damages like medical expenses and general compensatory damages like pain and suffering and mental anguish to punitive damages impacting the defendant, injured victims have the right to claim as many types of personal injury damages as they want. To help you navigate the complex legal processes outlined above, there is no better decision you can make than working alongside a personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
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