One of the most bewildering aspects of personal injury cases for laypeople who haven’t gone through the process before is how injury attorneys and insurance companies calculate damages. Damages are the financial compensation you could receive if you filed such a lawsuit, and they fall into several categories. There are two you should be aware of if you’re considering a personal injury lawsuit due to a car accident, medical malpractice or similar situation: special damages and general damages.
Special damages are also referred to as economic damages. This is a category encompassing monetary losses you have suffered because of another party’s negligence. In personal injury cases, the biggest categories to look at here are medical expenses and lost wages (since you’d probably lose time at work, or in rare cases your ability to continue your career altogether, due to time spent recovering). If the injury is fairly straightforward and you’re expected to heal completely, then these types of damages are not too difficult to determine. However, more complex types of injuries in which a recovery timeline is unclear can make calculating these damages much more difficult. That’s part of why you should always seek help from an attorney for catastrophic injuries; it’s very easy to underestimate the cost of ongoing and future care.
General damages are also referred to as non-economic damages. In personal injury cases, these are aspects of harm for which it is much more difficult to assign a monetary value, such as pain and suffering. Most commonly, general damages are calculated by multiplying the dollar value of the economic damages by a number (one through five, normally) based on the severity of the injury. Less-than-reputable car accident lawyers might lead you to believe that you’ll be getting millions of dollars in pain and suffering damages, but the reality is any general damages will generally be proportional to special damages, and you shouldn’t go into any personal injury case expecting a big payout.
A Note on Punitive Damages:
If you’re researching personal injury cases, you may also come across the term “punitive damages.” It’s unlikely that these types of damages, which are actually used by the court to punish the defendant or deter potential offenders, will come into play. If you’re curious about punitive damages, however, you can always ask your lawyer more about when and why they are imposed.
What other questions do you have about calculating the dollar value of settlements as part of personal injury cases? Ask or share any information you have in the comments.