Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit 

Personal Injury Lawyer

Once the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit has proven that the defendant has breached a duty owed to them or committed some other wrongful act against them, the law permits the plaintiff to recover monetary damages to compensate them for the injuries they’ve suffered from that wrong. As a personal injury lawyer can explain, damages can come in several forms, depending on the specific type of injuries a particular plaintiff has suffered. The main types of damages awarded in personal injury cases are compensatory damages and punitive damages. 

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages serve to compensate the plaintiff for the harm they have suffered. These damages are awarded in nearly all personal injury cases. Compensatory damages are awarded directly to the injured plaintiff. There are two types of compensatory damages: general damages and special damages. Additionally, there are other types of compensatory damages only available in wrongful death lawsuits. 

General Compensatory Damages

General compensatory damages are designed to compensate an injured plaintiff for the non-monetary damages they have suffered as a result of their injury. All personal injury awards will generally include some type of general compensatory damages. Common types of general damages include the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, the plaintiff’s family’s loss of their companionship, and the plaintiff’s mental anguish. 

Special Compensatory Damages

Special compensatory damages are awarded to reimburse the plaintiff for the monetary expenses they have incurred because of their injury. Their purpose is to make the plaintiff whole again by awarding them any money lost from their injury, such as the money they paid and will have to pay in the future for medical expenses and loss of past and future earnings. They are specific to the individual plaintiff, and therefore will vary significantly in each case. There is no limit to the amount of special compensatory damages a plaintiff may claim. 

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the family members of a person who has been killed due to the defendant’s negligence or other wrongful act. The purpose of the lawsuit is to compensate the deceased’s loved ones for their loss. In a wrongful death case, the family can typically recover damages to compensate them for the cost of funeral and burial expenses, the cost of the deceased’s pre-death medical care, the emotional distress suffered by family members, the family’s loss of financial contribution and support from the deceased, and the family’s loss of the deceased’s companionship and consortium. 

Punitive Damages 

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are only awarded in a small number of personal injury cases. Punitive damages are not related to the plaintiff’s injury, but instead are meant to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing. However, punitive damages are only awarded if the defendant’s conduct was reprehensible. They are usually awarded in cases in which the defendant is found to have acted wantonly or maliciously, such as in aggravated battery, sexual assault, or fraud cases. Punitive damages are also frequently awarded against manufacturers in defective product and prescription drug cases where the product or drug has injured many consumers. Like compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded directly to the injured plaintiff. 

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on the types of damages available in a personal injury lawsuit.