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General Damages and Special Damages in Personal Injury Claims

If you’ve been injured in an accident at no fault of your own, you may have claims for personal injury against the individual(s) or organization(s) that caused your injuries. The first question you may ask yourself is what may I be compensated for? In the legal world we refer to the compensation received for injuries as “damages.” There are two main categories of damages that apply if you’ve suffered an injury as the result of another party’s negligence.  

Actual damages, also known as compensatory damages, can best be described in two subcategories. The first category is general damages. General damages include compensation for pain and suffering, and emotional distress. General damages are considered a non-financial injury. You may receive compensation for the pain you suffered, the sleepless nights due to injuries, and the emotional distress you’ve suffered. Emotional distress can also be described in two subcategories. Firstly, there exists claims for general, “garden variety,” emotional distress. In addition to garden variety emotional distress, one may suffer a more serious degree of emotional distress resulting in a clinical diagnosis, such as the development of PTSD from an emotional trauma resulting from the injury producing event.  

The second subcategory of compensatory/actual damages is known as “special damages.” Special damages encompass economic loss. For instance, after a car accident, or slip and fall, you may have sought medical attention to treat your injuries or may expect to have future medical bills. Because of your injuries, you may have been unable to work. Additionally, if you were in a car accident you may have property damage to your vehicle. Special damages cover areas such as loss of earnings, medical bills, and property loss.

Below is an example for illustrative purposes:

A 14-year-old boy is awarded $50,000.00, as the result of suffering a chipped tooth when he fell on a kitchen tile due to the negligence of his father’s landlord. The boy had several dental procedures, totaling approximately $5,000.00, and it is anticipated that the child will need future dental work in the amount of $15,000.00. As such, the boy’s special damages amount to approximately $20,000.00. The boy was then compensated an additional $30,000.00, for pain and suffering. His pain and suffering can be described as the actual pain he experienced when the injury occurred, the pain he experiences and will experience at the dentist during procedures, and the emotional pain he experienced by going through an extra self-conscience adolescence with a discolored and slightly chipped tooth.

It is important to understand these different types of injuries to make an informed decision whether one should file a law suit for injuries sustained. If you’ve been injured it’s always best to speak with a lawyer familiar with this area of law.