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Car Accident Claims: What Are General Damages?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 08, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, we discussed how compensatory damages for car accident claims are split into two categories: special damages, which cover things like medical expenses, damage to the car, and the loss of income now and in the future; and general damages, which attempt to account for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium.

Here's a more specific breakdown of general damages, including how to recover them after a car accident.

General Damages

To reiterate, the terminology distinguishing special and general damages can seem a little backwards in car accident cases. After all, emotional distress may only occur in special cases, but vehicle damage happens in every case, generally. One way to keep them straight is to think of "special" as "specific" -- special damages in car accident claims normally refer to specific, measurable dollar amounts of actual loss. General damages on the other hand refer to those on which there no precise way to place a monetary value.

There are a few main types of general damages:

  • Loss of Consortium -- Deprivation of the benefits of married life, like affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, help and assistance, and sexual relations between spouses.
  • Loss of Society and Companionship -- Deprivation of positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship, and closeness, normally after a loved one dies.
  • Pain and Suffering / Mental Anguish / Loss of Enjoyment of Life -- States can vary on definitions and they may in some cases overlap, but this generally refers to deprivation of the normal level of happiness the person had before the accident, and can include the psychological toll of dealing with injuries or a newfound fear of certain places or scenarios.

(Special Note: In contract disputes, these definitions are reversed, with general damages referring to specific monetary issues like contract and market prices, and special damages referring to less-specific issues like lost profits from possible future contracts.)

Recovering General Damages

The first step to recovering general damages is to prove them. And because general damages are more difficult to assign a dollar amount to, they may be more difficult to prove. You may be required to provide expert testimony regarding your mental state or medical records for psychiatric treatment.

Because general damages in car accident claims are more difficult to prove, they are often more difficult to recover. Any injury lawsuit can be complicated, and the best way to understand what damages you might get is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney about your case. If you've been in a serious car accident, contact a lawyer near you today.

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