This is an article by Modoline Altenor, your personal injury attorney serving all of greater Orlando.
Orlando Personal Injury Lawyer: What Are “Special Damages” in a Personal Injury Case?
As a personal injury lawyer, one has to know things.
In order to serve our clients well, we have to know and interpret all of the laws and statutes that might affect a personal injury case, and how to best handle things in order to get maximum compensation for those clients.
In this article, we will cover two of the main kinds of personal injury damages you can be awarded as an injured party in a personal injury claim. We’ll also do our best to avoid using legal jargon that might make things difficult to understand. To begin with, let’s define a few basic terms that will help you moving forward.
In personal injury cases, damages serves as shorthand for the amount of money the plaintiff is awarded. The plaintiff is the injured party, the person who was harmed due to negligent, intentional, or reckless action on the part of the defendant. The plaintiff, in short, probably means you.
The defendant refers to the person or entity being sued for negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm. (Sometimes the defendant is not a person, but rather a company, but the definition stands.)
Damages tend to be split up into two major categories, and in this article we’re going to clarify them for you. They are general damages and special damages. Sometimes these are also called “economic damages” and “non-economic damages,” but we will refer to them as general and special damages so things don’t get confusing.
Examples will help clarify this for you, so we’re going to provide them.
Let’s start with general damages, which are the less easily quantifiable damages in a personal injury case.
Personal Injury Claims: General Compensatory Damages
General damages (non-economic) are those that cannot be computed using math, receipts, and direct evidence. They can include damages to things as vague as your reputation and personality. They are awarded to a plaintiff in order to compensate them for non-monetary damages.
All personal injury claims involve some kind of general damages.
Person “A” experiences a slip-and-fall in a supermarket due to an unmarked wet floor. They break several bones and lose four months of work due to hospitalization and physical therapy. Special damages will cover all of the measurable things (which we’ll detail below), but what about the things you can’t quantify?
What if Person A spent those four months feeling miserable and ashamed of needing so much help? What if physical therapy was brutally painful, and they couldn’t sleep? What if they later needed help weaning themselves off of painkillers? What if a compound fracture left their leg scarred, or they have a permanent limp after the accident?
All of these are critically important things to Person A, but don’t come with a receipt. General damages allow a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation for Person A, by assigning dollar amounts to things that can be called abstract.
What kinds of general compensatory damages are there?
General damages generally include:
Physical injuries, pain, and suffering
Maiming or other bodily disfigurement
Impairment or disability
Emotional distress or trauma
Loss of a friend or relation (in wrongful death suits)
Reduced quality of life
Loss of enjoyment (which signifies the effects of the loss or injury on the plaintiff’s daily life not covered elsewhere)
General damages can be imprecise, and difficult to calculate. That’s why so many personal injury lawsuits are settled through intense negotiation. There’s an art and a science to precisely quantifying the amount of money that can be called sufficient compensation.
Injuries are subjective, and yet our job, as personal injury lawyers, is to assign very specific, objective dollar amounts to those things. We have to speak to our client and determine what, for instance, their shame or mental anguish might be worth, financially.
When personal injury claims go to trial, the skill of the litigators and the emotional impact of your story on a jury are both major factors. Because those things are quite difficult to predict, damage awards can vary widely even on similar cases.
Orlando Personal Injury Lawyers: On Special Damages
In contrast to the vague nature of general damages, special damages are those that we can specifically quantify. They are compensation for losses suffered by the plaintiff – specifically out-of-pocket expenses and quantifiable financial loss.
Special damages present a serious but very different challenge to personal injury lawsuits. They must be proven with extreme attention to detail. For instance, in a car accident, the at-fault party is definitely liable for the total value of the plaintiff’s car – which can be established through tools like the Kelley Blue Book.
That’s one example of special damages. They cover tangible, measurable harms, calculated to the penny based on fair market value when the injury occurred.
Special damages typically form a substantial portion of all compensatory damages, while general damages account for the rest, in most cases. In some cases, a third kind of damages – punitive damages – may come into play, but those are not intended to compensate you at all. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for the action they took, or for their negligence, which caused you harm.
Here are a few losses, easily translated into dollar amounts, which would qualify as special damages:
Let’s talk a bit more here, because mitigation costs warrant a quick explanation. We’ll do a longer article on this later, but in short, the law requires you to make “reasonable efforts” to get back on your feet after an accident. Insurance companies often point at people who might exaggerate the severity of their injuries or their recovery time in order to seek a better settlement.
The law imposes a duty to mitigate. That simply means that you must try to get better. If an insurance investigator films you going hiking with friends when you testified that you were unable to exercise, the concept of mitigation is very likely to be used by the defendant in order to reduce your claim.
In short, don’t fake it, and everything will be all right.
The Whole Point of Compensation
Personal injury settlements or awarded judgments are intended to restore you, as nearly as possible, to the state and position in which you would have found yourself, if the injury had never taken place.
Special damage do this by specifically rewarding you all money spent, all money lost, and all money you might now never earn, due to the injury you sustained. They are a critical part of determining the worth of your claim.
General damages do this by compensating you for less quantifiable things. The basic idea is that if your reputation, emotional stability, physical or mental wellness, and quality of life have been negatively impacted, financial compensation (while perhaps not perfect) will go some distance toward making up for the wrong you’ve suffered.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Calculate Special Damages in a Personal Injury Suit?
Personal injury lawsuits can be very complex. Your claim, if mishandled, might leave you with less money than you need, or even no money at all. If you’ve got even a minor issue during the early stages of figuring out a personal injury claim, you should contact an experienced Orlando special injury lawyer and ask for a consultation.
At the Altenor Law firm, you get paid or I’m FREE.
We can help you figure out what your claim is worth, and whether or not you have a strong, compelling case. With our help, your personal injury lawsuit will result in higher damages awarded, faster.
Experienced personal injury lawyers do a great deal more than argue with other attorneys. We gather evidence of your injuries. We coordinate with medical professionals. We interview witnesses and collect testimonies. We identify all claim possibilities, hire expert witnesses, and maximize potential compensation. We take your part in the negotiating room, and if necessary, we litigate and advocate for you before a judge and jury.
Our job is to see you compensated fully, and if we can’t recover damages for you, you don’t owe us a penny.
Contact Altenor Law Firm, Orlando Personal Injury Experts
If you have questions about your claim, whether it’s in the early stages or already in negotiations, please reach out to us. It would be our honor to help you get the justice you deserve.