Explore all types of economic and non-economic damages you can seek in a personal injury claim. Get the full compensation you deserve.
The financial and personal losses suffered by victims of negligence are known as compensatory damages. There are two main categories of damages:
- Economic damages, also called “special” damages, are measurable costs like medical bills and lost wages.
- Non-economic damages, also called “general” damages, are losses that can’t be measured by a bill or receipt, such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
Here’s where we unpack all types of damages you can include in a personal injury claim. We also explain when and how punitive damages might be awarded in addition to your personal injury damages.
Special Damages: Economic Losses
Special damages are monetary losses directly related to the injury that can be documented and measured. Proving special damages is usually a matter of gathering bills, receipts, and other documentation showing the actual costs you incurred due to the injury.
Add up the costs of your medical bills, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, and personal property losses to calculate the total amount of your special damages.
There are five general categories of special damages:
1. Medical Costs for Diagnosis and Treatment
Your medical bills and records are an extremely important part of your injury claim. Request copies of all your medical bills and records to document your costs. You’ll need the total amount billed for your treatment, not just your co-pay.
Be sure to request copies of every one of your medical bills, even if healthcare insurance or workers’ compensation covered them. Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ comp, and most health insurance companies have the right to put a medical lien against your settlement to recover what they paid on your behalf.
Document your medical expenses for:
- Ambulance services
- Hospital and emergency room charges
- Hospital and emergency room physician fees
- Outpatient physician fees
- Chiropractic treatment
- Tests like lab work, X-rays, CT scans, and more
- Physician fees for interpreting test results
- Costs for physical therapy or rehab
You will seek reimbursement for the costs of all your medical treatment, starting immediately after the accident, continuing to the present day and when applicable, into the future.
Severely injured victims, like those with spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injuries, may require specialized medical care and therapies over an extended period of time. The cost of these necessary therapies will be part of the injury claim.
Special therapies may include:
2. Mental Health Services
The emotional distress, depression, and anxiety that can arise from traumatic injuries may require professional treatment and support. Mental health treatment costs related specifically to your injuries count as economic damages.
You may seek compensation for:
- Psychiatrist or psychologist bills
- Counseling sessions with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or other mental health care provider
3. Lost Income or Earning Capacity
This includes all wages and other earnings lost as a result of the accident, starting from the day of your injury, through the present day, and for as long as you may be unable to work.
Injuries that result in permanent disability to a child or working adult can give rise to claims for loss of earning capacity. A personal injury lawyer may hire experts to forecast how much the injured person would have been able to earn before retirement age.
Prove lost income with a verification letter from your employer detailing your normal pay rate, the hours you lost, and the total compensation you lost by not being able to work due to your injury. Ask your employer to verify all lost income and perks.
You’re entitled to recover all types of lost income, including:
- Overtime opportunities
- Vacation days used
- Sick leave used
- Lost accrual of vacation or sick days
- Fuel allowance
- Meal allowance
- Use of company vehicle
- Gym membership
- Employer contribution to retirement plans
- Employer contribution to insurance premiums
4. Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Your out-of-pocket expenses include all other costs related to the accident and your injury.
Related expenses can include:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Medical aids like wheelchairs, crutches, slings, bandages, etc.
- Gasoline and parking fees when traveling to medical appointments
- Mileage for travel to and from medical appointments
- Payment for a rental car
Keep receipts for any purchases related to your injury and treatment, starting from the date of the accident. You can also estimate future out-of-pocket expenses, if applicable.
You can also seek compensation for replacement services, such as:
- Child care
- Laundry service
- Meal service
- Lawn care
- Snow removal
- Pet care and dog walking
Replacement services are qualified expenses when you’re paying another person to handle tasks you would have done on your own had you not been injured. Be sure to get a written and detailed statement of cost for each service you had to hire out.
5. Vehicle and Personal Property Damage
If you’re in a car accident, you can file a property damage claim for the cost of repairs to your vehicle, or if your vehicle was totaled, an amount representing its fair market value. You may be able to claim the cost of a rental vehicle while yours was in the shop.
No matter the circumstances of your injury, you also have the right to seek reimbursement for any personal property damaged or destroyed during the accident.
Damaged or destroyed personal property may include:
- Electronic devices, including laptops, smartphones, earbuds, etc.
- Eyeglasses and sunglasses
- Clothing items
- School supplies
In most states, your beloved pet or service animal is considered personal property. You may pursue compensation for vet bills or the loss of animals that occurred because of the accident.
General Damages: Pain & Suffering
General damages are non-economic losses that include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, loss of consortium, and disfigurement. You won’t have an itemized bill or receipts to help put a dollar value on general compensatory damages.
However, if your injuries in a no-fault state are serious enough to exceed the threshold, you may seek full compensation from the at-fault driver’s policy, including pain and suffering.
Similarly, if your workplace injury was caused by a negligent party who is not your employer, you can pursue full compensation from the third party, in addition to your workers’ comp benefits.
Complicated or serious personal injury cases should be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries, be sure you are fully compensated for all your damages. Most injury lawyers offer a free consultation to the injured person or their family.
1. Pain and Suffering
This category includes the physical pain and severe discomfort endured at the time of the accident, and any future suffering caused by the injury and treatment. Pain and suffering depends on the type and duration of the injury. The more pain in the present and future, the higher the compensation.
Pain and suffering includes:
- Pain inflicted when the injury occurred and throughout recovery
- Discomfort from treatments and therapy
- Nausea and vomiting caused by pain or medications
- Chills or shaking from shock
No two individuals will experience the pain of an injury the same way. Factors affecting pain and suffering compensation include present and future surgeries, the types of treatment and medication prescribed, and the expectation of a long and difficult recovery.
2. Emotional Distress
Emotional distress includes any mental anguish and emotional disturbance caused by the accident.
Emotional distress may manifest as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Emotional distress in children may also include:
- Developmental regression
- Clinging to a parent
- Fear of being left alone
- Excessive crying
Discuss your emotional distress with your primary care doctor or your child’s pediatrician.
Significant compensation for emotional distress may require evidence from a psychologist or psychiatrist. A mental health professional’s written narrative, including diagnosis and prognosis, will show the seriousness of your emotional damage and its connection to the event that caused your injuries.
The costs of mental health services count as economic damages. You may also seek non-economic damages for the experience of your emotional ordeal.
3. Loss of Enjoyment
Compensation for loss of enjoyment of life depends on the value you can place on activities you’re unable to enjoy now and in the future.
You can make a monetary claim for your loss of present and future enjoyment of:
- Household tasks like cooking
- Daily exercise
- The company of friends
- Worship services
- Sports and other recreational pursuits
Your injuries might keep you from enjoying special occasions and holidays. For example, if you couldn’t prepare Thanksgiving dinner for your family, walk your daughter down the aisle at her wedding, or dance with your spouse on your anniversary.
It will take some effort to convey just how much your life has been negatively affected by your injuries. Use emotional language and detailed, heartfelt descriptions of your life before and after the accident to convey your loss.
4. Loss of Consortium
Traditionally, loss of consortium is the legal term used to describe the loss of intimacy or sexual companionship with a spouse or significant other caused by a debilitating injury.
Claiming traditional loss of consortium may require medical proof of sexual disability. In some states, only a legally married spouse can seek damages. Convincing the insurance company may take a written statement from your spouse, including intimate details of your sex life.
These days, loss of consortium is often described as the loss of the benefits of family relationships. Many states permit consortium claims from family members. For example, children may have a consortium claim when their injured parent is unable to care for them.
5. Permanent Impairment or Disfigurement
In severe or permanent injury claims, your attorney may seek compensation specifically for impairment or disfigurement damages.
Impairments may affect any bodily function:
- Use of hands or arms
- Use of feet or legs
- Bowel or bladder control
Common disfigurements include:
- Distortions to face or limbs
- Loss of an eye
Family Damages for Wrongful Death
Types of injury compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit depend on who is filing the action.
If the claim is made on behalf of the estate of the deceased person, the estate can seek compensation for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Pre-death pain and suffering.
Surviving family members may seek compensation for:
- Emotional distress and grief
- Loss of services, like home and yard care
- Loss of financial support from the decedent’s earnings
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
Punitive Damages in Court Verdicts
Punitive means to punish. A judge or jury will award punitive damages as punishment for the malicious or egregious behavior of the liable party. Punitive damages also warn others of the consequences of bad behavior.
You cannot seek punitive damages from an insurance company outside of a personal injury lawsuit.
Juries have been known to award millions of dollars in punitive damages, usually against corporations whose gross negligence has resulted in death and disability to accident victims.
Case types that may result in punitive damages:
Juries are also known to impose punitive damages on corporations that have destroyed or manipulated evidence in injury claims.
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