Personal injury damages are split into two categories, compensatory damages, which can cover a wide variety of losses from your injury, and the second category is punitive damages. Before you decide your injuries don't fall within these categories, you should speak to one of our lawyers, as this is not an exhaustive list, and this article does not cover all of our practice areas.
Compensatory damages are further split into two additional categories; the first is special compensatory damages, often called economic damages. Economic damages can most easily be defined as things that come with a price tag, receipt, or are quantifiable.
Examples of economic damages can include:
- Cost of hospital stays
- Medical bills
- Medical treatments
- Lab tests
- Doctor's appointments
- Ambulance rides
- Physical therapy
- Nursing home care
- At-home nursing care
- Future medical expenses
Suppose someone's negligence damaged your vehicle, bike, boat, or other property. In that case, you should be able to get compensation to have it repaired or replaced.
Suppose you miss time from work or are injured in such a way that you cannot return to work or have to take a lower-paying job. In that case, the losses should be compensable from the date of the injury and into the future. Should your injury be from defamation, you may be able to get compensated for lost clients or business in response to the harm to your reputation or standing in the community.
Loss of irreplaceable items
Suppose a cherished family heirloom was destroyed during the incident that caused your injury. In that case, you could be awarded compensation for the cost beyond its original value.
General compensatory damages
General compensatory damages are things that do not come with a price tag or receipt but are somewhat incalculable. Concerning personal injury claims, insurance companies often use a multiplier to come up with numbers to award damages like pain and suffering.
Examples of general compensatory damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Lower quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Physical disfigurement
- Physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Lack of mobility
- Loss of a career
Wrongful death damages
Wrongful death damages are a mix of special and general damages which are only available in a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving family members can file a lawsuit against the wrongdoer on behalf of their deceased loved one to recover these damages. The specifics of which family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit vary by state. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact one of our wrongful death attorneys for clarification.
Examples of wrongful death damages:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Cost of medical care before death
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of financial contribution
- The emotional distress of surviving members
Punitive damages are not awarded to compensate for your losses, but instead, it's a form of punishment the court can impose on the wrongdoer to make an example of them and to deter them and others from repeating the wrong.
For example, in 2002, a jury awarded $28 billion in punitive damages to a single plaintiff who sued Philip Morris, a big tobacco company, for her inoperable lung cancer. The jury was outraged to find the company was aware that smoking tobacco was highly addictive and caused cancer in the 1950s and destroyed any research that revealed the dangers of tobacco. Instead, the company went to great lengths to show the public that smoking was neither harmful nor addictive. In response to the company's underhanded actions, the jury awarded the most significant punitive damage award in history.
Punitive damages are not commonly awarded, but if the courts see a defendant acted with maliciousness or gross negligence or the defendant is a high profile individual or business, they may use punitive damages as punishment.