Special Damages & General Damages: What You Need to Know

There are two types of damages, special and general, that are determined in a case that involves injury. The law defines the damages that are imposed on someone or an entity that has committed wrongdoing and has hurt a person. When a party is injured, that party is rightfully due to compensation for the loss or injury. The term damages, also called compensatory damages, refers to the amount of money the law imposes for a breach of a duty or violation of a right in a personal injury case.

The Doyle Law Offices, PA is experienced in working with personal injury cases that involve both special and general (also called economic and non-economic) damages. Understanding these two categories of compensatory damages requires the knowledge of a Wake Forest personal injury attorney. In this article, we define both types of damages and explain how they are calculated so you have the information you need in a personal injury case.

When a personal injury claim is made, there is the opportunity to settle the case. However, if an agreement cannot be made on a settlement, then it goes to trial with either a judge making the decisions regarding awards or with a jury.

Types of Personal Injury Cases That Result in Damages

Personal injuries occur in a variety of situations. Here are five of the most common examples of personal injury lawsuits in the United States:

Special Damages

Special damages are also referred to as economic damages. These are the damages to compensate for out-of-pocket expenses that have resulted from the defendant’s negligence. Of the two types, special damages is the easier to calculate because they can be assigned a specific monetary value based on the expenses the victim has incurred as a result of the accident. The primary goal for special damages is to put the victim in a monetary position that they would be in had they not suffered their injuries. Special damages are unique (or “special”) because no other plaintiff would have the precise amount of financial losses.

Types of Special Damages

Compensation for special damages is based on fair market value at the time of the incident. As the victim, you must clearly define all special damages in the personal injury claim before the judge begins the decision of a judgement or a jury begins deliberation. The following losses are typically included in special damages awarded in a personal injury claim:

  • Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
  • Medical expenses, both past and future
  • Loss of irreplaceable items
  • Replacement or repair of property damage
  • Personal care costs
  • Cost of living with a disability
  • Costs associated with lessening their own liability
  • Funeral costs associated with the death of a loved one

Arriving at a Special Damages Amount

As stated earlier, special damages are easier to calculate because there is a specific amount that the plaintiff has either paid or lost because of the injury, so it is paramount to keep receipts and other documents for calculating special damages. Let’s look at some of the most typical costs included in special damages.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Out-of-pocket expenses that you have paid might include prescriptions, crutches, braces, walkers, travel, and any other costs you incurred because of your injuries.

Medical Expenses: Medical expenses are generally a significant portion of most personal injury claims. These expenses consist of all the medical treatment the injury requires, beginning immediately after the accident and continuing into the future.

Lost Income: Lost income is another important component of special damages. This includes all wages and other earnings that are lost as a result of the accident. Calculations need to begin from the date of the accident and continue until the victim returns to work. Lost income includes lost wages, lost earning capacity, and lost opportunity.

General Damages

General damages compensate an injured individual for non-monetary damages that are incurred in a personal injury claim. These are costs that don’t have a precise economic value, yet can make up a significant portion of the claim. These damages are much more difficult to estimate than special damages because of their subjectivity. For example, how do you put a monetary value on the loss of use of a body part or the loss of a loved one? General damages are estimated using one or more formulas and depend upon the unique circumstances of the case. Many times, expert witnesses are brought in.

Types of General Damages

These are common types of general damages in personal injury cases:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental or emotional pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement or deformity
  • Lost enjoyment
  • Loss of companionship (in wrongful death cases)
  • Decreased quality of life

Calculating General Damages

Determining general damages most often involves assigning an exact dollar amount to a subjective injury. Damages like mental anguish can be unique to each plaintiff. Factors that play into the damage award include the gruesome nature of an injury, the skillfulness of the attorneys, and the jury.

Some insurance companies use formulas when offering a personal injury settlement. The “multiplier method” is a common formula that involves taking your special damages and multiplying them by a factor between 1.5 and 5. The specific factor is chosen based on the seriousness of the injuries.

An experienced personal injury attorney can push back on this calculation in several ways. If other plaintiffs have been awarded larger awards in similar cases, this can influence a jury to offer a higher damage compensation. General damage negotiations take into consideration the facts that surround your case. Your personal injury attorney will illuminate such evidence as who was at fault for the accident and the exact nature of your injuries. These facts can influence a higher compensation.

Evaluating Settlement Offers

Your personal injury attorney and you must evaluate any settlement offers you receive and make a decision as to their fairness. After looking at the settlements, you can decide to take your case to trial for a jury to decide on the damages.

Contact Doyle Law Offices for Personal Injury Cases

If you have been injured wrongfully and think you have a claim for personal injury, contact our knowledgeable and experienced attorney Hank Doyle. With personal injury attorneys in Wake Forest and Cary, we serve a wide community around Raleigh. We have over 25 years working with this process and have helped hundreds of clients over the years get the compensation they need and are entitled to. Call us at  (919) 228-4487 or fill out the contact form below. We offer free consultation appointments for personal injury clients and there is no attorney fee if we don’t collect compensation for you.

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