Personal Injury and Compensatory Damages
When the personal injury attorneys of the law firm of Gary A. Zucker & Associates, P.C., consult with prospective clients at our office in Brooklyn, compensatory damages are among the concepts we go over in precise detail. Many people who are unfamiliar with personal injury law believe that serious injuries automatically equal multi-million-dollar windfalls for victims and their families. In reality, most personal injury cases that are resolved in the plaintiff’s favor result in the awarding of compensatory damages - monetary compensation only for demonstrable economic and non-economic losses and expenses.
What Are Damages?
Many people believe the word “damages” to be synonymous with “damage,” as in “the victim suffered damages such as a broken wrist and a concussion in the car accident.” This is a misuse of the legal term, however. “Damages” actually refer to the monetary compensation paid to the injured plaintiff (whether as a result of a jury verdict or, more commonly, a settlement agreement) for losses and expenses sustained as the result of his or her injury. In basic terms, it’s the money the injured party receives once his or her case is resolved.
There are two basic types of damages: compensatory and punitive. In the vast majority of cases, plaintiffs receive only compensatory damages. In order to obtain punitive damages, the court must find that the act of negligence that resulted in the injury-causing accident was particularly egregious and, therefore, worthy of punishment beyond simply compensation of those losses and expenses that can be proved by the plaintiff’s attorney.
Types of Compensatory Damages
Compensatory damages can further be divided into two types: special and general.
To understand special damages, it may be helpful to think of “special” as meaning “particular and specific.” Special damages can refer to any particular loss or expense that can easily be quantified in terms of dollars; for instance:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- Property damage
- Medication expenses
- Insurance excess
- Lost wages
General damages, on the other hand, refer to more abstract consequences that result from injury, most of which are difficult to associate with specific dollar amounts, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
General damages also encompass many of the future consequences that can be projected as a result of wrongful death, such as:
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
In order to obtain the full measure of damages to which a plaintiff is entitled, our personal injury and auto accident attorneys must be able to present evidence of the losses and expenses sustained as a result of his or her injuries. In proving special damages, there is generally ample documentation to demonstrate the actual out-of-pocket losses and expenses sustained by the injured victim; however, general damages can be more difficult to prove. It takes skill and experience on the part of the plaintiff’s attorneys to present the most compelling and persuasive arguments possible to convince a jury (or the defense attorneys during settlement negotiations) that the amounts attached to the list of general damages are reasonable.
Learn More about Compensatory Damages
If you have any questions about compensatory damages or would like to schedule an evaluation of your case, please contact the personal injury attorneys of Gary A. Zucker & Associates, P.C. today.