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Economic Recovery for Accidents and Injuries

If you've suffered harm as a result of a car accident or injury, you may be entitled to receive economic recovery from those who are at fault and their insurance company.

What you can recover will depend upon the kind of damages you experienced because of the auto accident or injury, both during and after the incident. In some cases, your family members may also be entitled to recover to the extent that your injury affected their relationship with you.

Here is a glossary that defines almost every type of legal compensation available to a plaintiff in a personal injury case. An experienced car accident attorney will explain your options. They will work to ensure that you receive all compensation to which you are entitled after a car accident case.


When an accident or injury has left a person deformed or disfigured, the injured person may be able to collect damages for the disfigurement. These damages are sometimes included as an element of other types of damages, such as mental anguish.

Future Medical Expenses

This type of recovery is permitted if the accident victim proves that they will need continued medical care as a result of the accident or injury. The proof must be sufficient for the jury to make an approximate estimate of the future medical costs through the medical opinion of a treating doctor.

General Damages

Sometimes referred to as non-economic damages, general damages attempt to measure the difference between what the victim's life would have been like without the accident and what the victim's life has been like because of the accident. General damages are a broad category. It includes pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and all other injuries that cannot be determined with mathematical certainty.

Household Services

The cost of hiring somebody to do things around the house while the plaintiff is recuperating from an accident or injury may be compensable, provided that the expense would not have been incurred had the plaintiff not been injured. These kinds of damages are sometimes included as part of medical expenses.

Loss of Consortium

Deprivation of the benefits of married life after an accident or injury — affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, help and assistance, and sexual relations between spouses — can be a basis for loss of consortium damages. Usually, the uninjured spouse makes this claim, and their financial recovery will depend on whether the injured spouse recovers any damages.

A close relative like a parent or a child of the accident victim can also bring this claim. In some cases, the injured person will make the claim as well.

A value is placed on this loss by considering the couple's individual life expectancies, whether the marriage was stable, how much care and companionship was bestowed upon the uninjured spouse or vice versa, and the extent to which the benefits of married life have been lost. Usually, loss of consortium damages are only available when the spouse has been seriously injured and at least temporarily disabled.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

A diminished ability to enjoy the day-to-day pleasures of life, loss of enjoyment is usually an item of general damages. There is no precise way to place a monetary value on it. Some states treat it as a form of pain and suffering, while others treat loss of quality of life as a distinct kind of damage in an accident or injury case.

Loss of Society and Companionship

In wrongful death cases, loss of society and companionship damages represent the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship, and closeness that the plaintiff(s) (immediate family members) would have enjoyed had the decedent lived. A jury considers evidence that a harmonious relationship existed between the plaintiff and the decedent, their living arrangements, common interests, activities, and whether the decedent and the plaintiff were separated for extended periods.

These damages are related to loss of consortium and loss of consortium of a child, which is sometimes referred to as filial consortium.

Lost Earning Capacity

After an accident or injury, these damages may be recovered if the plaintiff proves that their ability to earn money in the future has been impaired or diminished by the injuries. Factors that help determine whether an award should be made include the plaintiff's age, health, life expectancy, occupation, talents, skills, experience, and training.

Past earnings are a factor in determining the appropriate amount of compensation for lost earning capacity, but the claim really focuses on what might have been earned were it not for the accident or injury.

Lost Income

These damages represent the amount of money a plaintiff would have earned from the time of the injury to the date of settlement or judgment. An unemployed person may be permitted to recover lost wages if they can prove what could have been earned during the same period.

Medical Bills

Bills and expenses for medical services such as doctors, hospital stays, emergency room treatment, ambulance fees, and nursing services may be compensable. A plaintiff must show that the expenses are related to medical conditions resulting from their injury. The total amount of medical expenses is sometimes used as a rough guide to decide whether the overall award of damages is reasonable. Note that the cost of medical treatment for purposes of litigation is not ordinarily recoverable as a medical expense.

Mental Anguish

Mental anguish includes any mental suffering or emotional distress associated with an accident or injury, including:

  • Fright
  • Terror
  • Apprehension
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Humiliation
  • Mortification
  • Lost dignity
  • Embarrassment
  • Grief
  • Shock

These damages are usually considered a subset of pain and suffering damages.

Pain and Suffering

An award for past and future physical pain in connection with an accident or injury may be compensable as pain and suffering. To place a monetary value on pain and suffering, the jury considers:

  • The nature of the injury
  • The certainty of future pain and its severity
  • How long the plaintiff is likely to be in pain

Some states allow the jury to assume that if a bodily injury has occurred, there has been some pain and suffering. Some require that the plaintiff be conscious for some time during the injury.

Permanent Disability

These damages are best proved by medical testimony. Ordinarily, a doctor must examine a plaintiff claiming permanent disability. Some courts have held that permanent disability damages can include not only disabilities that are objectively determined but also disabilities that the plaintiff subjectively perceives.

Special Damages

Also referred to as economic damages or specific damages, special damages are a broad category of damages that cover all monetary losses, including medical expenses, after an accident or injury. Recovery for these compensatory damages requires detailed proof that the economic losses were sustained. It also requires a showing of how much financial loss was involved. This is usually fairly simple to meet by producing bills or receipts.

Property Damage

This refers to the financial cost of repairing or replacing damaged property following an accident. It includes damages to your vehicle in a car accident or any other type of personal property that was damaged as a result of the accident.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant's actions are exceptionally malicious or reckless. They are not tied to the type of harm suffered by the plaintiff, but are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. However, not all states allow for punitive damages in personal injury cases.

Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney To Pursue a Personal Injury Claim

A car crash case requires a detailed understanding of personal injury law. If an accident has caused you or a loved one a loss, you'll want to seek economic recovery. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand what kind of damages you can recover after an injury accident. Contact a local car accident lawyer today. Many lawyers offer a free case review, so you won't have to worry about paying for a consultation upfront.

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