3 Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case
The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to compensate you for losses that you sustained because of someone else’s actions, whether intentional or negligent. “Damages” is a term that can be used alternatively to describe both the losses you sustained and the funds you receive as compensation. Three types of damages are possible in a personal injury case.
1. Punitive Damages
The purpose of punitive damages is not specifically to compensate you for your losses. Rather, this is something extra that the court requires the responsible party to pay you as a punishment on top of what he or she owes you. The court may require the defendant to pay punitive damages for behavior that was exceptionally reckless to prevent him or her from doing the same thing again and possibly causing another personal injury. Punitive damages are only available under certain circumstances.
2. Economic Damages
Some of your losses from an accident are things to which you can attach a specific monetary value. For example, you get a bill from your health care provider itemizing your medical expenses down to the last penny. You can calculate the wages you lost from work, etc. These are called economic damages, losses for which you can claim a specific dollar amount. For that reason, they are also called specific damages. Because economic damages are quantifiable, it is usually not very difficult to convince the court to award them.
3. Noneconomic Damages
There are other losses that are difficult to quantify with a specific monetary value. For example, perhaps you have lost your previous quality of life because of chronic physical pain and emotional suffering. Perhaps you are no longer able to spend quality time with family or enjoy your hobbies. Perhaps you can no longer sleep in the same bed as your spouse or significant other and share intimate relations. These are all examples of noneconomic damages, or general damages, and just because they cannot be quantified doesn’t mean that they are not significant. Nevertheless, it can be relatively more difficult to obtain noneconomic damages, precisely because you cannot attach a dollar amount to them.
Attorneys use a complex formula to calculate the amount of non-economic damages that you should receive. It involves multiplying your economic damages by a multiplier that indicates how much pain and suffering you are going through. Multipliers range from 1.5 to 5, and the more painful, serious, and long-lasting your injuries are, the higher the multiplier is and the more you may be able to collect in general damages.