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General Damages vs Special Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

No one starts their day expecting it to end in a hospital, but accidents and injuries occur every day to people of all ages. All injuries are painful and upsetting, but when the injury occurred directly due to someone else’s actions or carelessness, it’s even more distressing. Whether the injuries occurred in a car accident, a slip-and-fall at a commercial business, or from a defective product or dangerous dog, you shouldn’t be left responsible for the consequences. The physical, emotional, and financial consequences of a personal injury are known as the injury victim’s “damages” in a personal injury claim. The person or business at fault for the injury is responsible for paying compensation for those damages—typically through an appropriate insurance policy.

Two Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

Most personal injury claims seek compensation for two types of damages. These are general damages and special damages. In less common cases, an injury victim may also seek punitive damages. While general damages and special damages compensate the victim for losses, punitive damages are meant as a punishment and deterrent to the at-fault party. Courts only award punitive damages in cases of egregious negligence or intentional wrongdoing; however, both general damages and personal damages are commonly claimed in personal injury cases.

What Are General Damages in Personal Injury Claims?

In personal injury cases, the term “general damages” refers to the physical and emotional harm caused by the injury. They are often called non-economic damages, as they are intangible and difficult to quantify with a financial amount. However, personal injury attorneys and insurance companies use specific formulas to calculate compensation amounts for these damages, which are the most devastating to the injury victim. Common general damages after a personal injury include the following:

  • Pain and suffering: this is the most commonly claimed general damages or non-economic damages in personal injury claims
  • Emotional trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and depression: depending on the circumstances of the injury, the victim might experience emotional trauma and lingering after-effects
  • Disfigurement: if an injury causes scarring or facial disfigurement it has long-term impacts on the victim’s quality of life
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: when a serious injury impacts a person’s ability to perform their daily routines or continue the career and recreational activities they previously enjoyed, this is a general damage
  • Loss of consortium: the loss of ability to enjoy a full physical and emotional relationship with a loved one or the loss of ability to fully support and nurture children is devastating “damage” from an injury

Special Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

The special damages in personal injury claims are the tangible economic damages that a personal injury attorney and an insurance company can calculate using medical records, receipts, and income records. When an injury requires medical treatment, the injury victim may miss days, weeks, or months of work. Severe injuries may cause permanent disability that makes it impossible to return to work at the previous capacity or to work at all. These special damages, or economic damages often include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical costs for ongoing treatment
  • Lost income
  • Future income loss
  • Diminished future earning capacity due to disability caused by the injury

A skilled Van Nuys personal injury attorney will carefully calculate these special damages to ensure that the injury victim misses no avenue for compensation.