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Just about every story about a personal injury lawsuit will make some reference to damages, noting how much the plaintiff is asking for and what kind. And a lot of specific legal terms get thrown around: general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.
But what do they mean? Are they available in every case? And are they capped? Here are seven of the most frequently asked questions regarding damages in personal injury lawsuits, and a few answers:
General damages normally refer to damages that lack monetary precision. Unlike the cost of car repair, general damages cover things like loss of consortium, loss of companionship, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. As such, they may be more difficult to prove.
Though the terminology may sound reversed (and it is in contract disputes) special damages refer to medical expenses, property damage, and other specific monetary losses, like the loss of income, now and in the future.
In some injury cases, the defendant's actions are so egregious they will warrant additional monetary damages as punishment, beyond compensating the victim for losses. Punitive damages are normally reserved for cases where the defendant's conduct goes beyond merely negligent or intentional, and becomes reckless, malicious, fraudulent, wanton, or outrageous.
Rarely used as a legal term, hedonic damages refer to the intangible impact an injury has on your life, and can generally fall under pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
How injured do you have to be to recover for pain and suffering? These are normally reserved for severe physical injuries that cause physical or mental anguish for a period of time following an accident.
The damages available may depend on the type of lawsuit being filed and state laws. Wrongful death claims can be unique, in that they involve more speculative damage estimates, based on the victim's life expectancy.
Many states have capped the amount a plaintiff can recover in an injury lawsuit. These caps can vary by state and depend on the kind of claim. For instance, pain and suffering caps in medical malpractice lawsuits may be much lower than punitive damage caps in product liability claims.
For more information on personal injury damages and how they might relate to your claims, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.