General vs. Special Damages In Your Personal Injury Case

Posted on: 31 August 2015

Damages refer to the amount of money you receive due to a payout or settlement during a personal injury case. The amount awarded to the plaintiff is always referred to as damages. There are two types of damages you can receive as the plaintiff in such a case: general and special damages. These can also be referred to as non-economic or economic damages, respectively. What constitutes each particular brand of damages? Throughout the course of this brief article, you will learn how to differentiate between special and general damages in your personal injury case.

General Damages

When general damages are awarded to a plaintiff, there is a clear causal connection between the actions of the defendant and the injuries incurred by the defendant. Even if the defendant did not anticipate the extent of the harm he or she inflicted upon the plaintiff, this is still usually grounds for full compensation.

For example, if the defendant gave a rather solid tap to the skull of the plaintiff, intending to inflict a bit of pain and annoyance upon the plaintiff, but the plaintiff had a rare bone disease that caused his or her bones to be eggshell thin, and the plaintiff's skull cracked as a result of the defendant's actions, the consequences of this action far outweigh the intent of the defendant and as such, he or she will be responsible for the full amount of medical bills and other forms of injury inflicted upon the plaintiff.

Depending upon the case, it can be hard to assign a monetary value to what is often perceived as a subjective injury. Physical damages are usually paid in full by the amount of medical bills due, but mental anguish and embarrassment are another case altogether. These types of injuries are incredibly subjective and, as such, the dollar amount assigned to these forms of injuries varies from case to case.

Special Damages

Special damages refer to the amount awarded to the plaintiff due to actions on behalf of the defendant, which might not have a direct or clear causal connection unlike general damages.

Special damages may also refer to very specific damages caused by a plaintiff's actions, which are even more clear cut than general damages, but this usually refers to property damage or medical bills and not phenomena such as mental anguish or embarrassment.

This second use of special damages is much more common and, as such, this will be the definition that will be addressed. For example, if there is a car accident in which one party is proven to be at fault, or liable, for the entirety of the accident, but there is no medical need required over the course of the accident, then the at-fault party (or the at-fault party's insurance company) will be liable for the physical damage incurred by the defendant's vehicle.

This form of special damages is usually quite easy to calculate, since a dollar amount has already been assigned to the vehicle since it is, at base, property. The matter is actually far more simple than calculating the worth of different phenomenon, like mental anguish, in a general damage case.

Special damages can also include loss of income, for example if you were out of work due to an injury for a lengthy period of time.

In personal injury cases, determining what sort of damages that you will receive can be confusing at first. Hopefully, this article has shed a bit of light on the subject and you now understand what sort of compensation to which you are entitled. In order to better understand the different types of damages, speak with a personal injury lawyer.


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During a long road trip, we made an emergency stop at a motel that I wasn't completely comfortable with. Unfortunately, that was the only motel in the area, and we couldn't drive any further safely. While leaving the motel in the morning, the handrail on the steps broke, and my son and husband tumbled down the stairs and got hurt. They were taken by ambulance to a hospital where we spent the next four days. While there, I contacted a few personal injury lawyers to find out what I should do. Find out what you should do in a situation such as this.

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