Damages are an award, typically of money, given as compensation for the plaintiff who suffered an injury in a personal injury case. These can vary depending on the type of case, the nature of the injury, and the laws in the state where it happened. They can be categorized into two: Compensatory and Punitive Damages.
Compensatory damages are given to plaintiffs “to make them whole” after an injury. These are meant to compensate the claimant for loss, injury or harm. Compensatory Damages can be divided further into two: Special Damages and General Damages.
Special Damages are direct economic losses that have quantifiable monetary values. Often the court will award damages for loss of earnings, medical expenses, property damage and other measurable economic damages resulting from the defendant’s actions. The court will need all necessary information and documents to determine the value of these damages. For example copies of medical bills to determine medical expenses.
Medical Expenses: If the plaintiff must undergo treatment or other forms of medical care as a result of an injury, the defendant will have to pay for the expenses. These typically include but not limited to hospital stays, physical therapy, surgery and other medical procedures, medicine, and medical devices, and even lifelong nursing care. Future expenses, when needed as a result of the injury, are sometimes factored in. Note that if the plaintiff’s insurance has been paying these expenses on his or her behalf before the damages are awarded, the plaintiff will have to turn over the damages to his or her insurance.
Lost Wages: Another aspect of a special damages award is the compensation for lost income or wages. Payment for work missed by plaintiff because of the injury or because of treatments for the injury are included. In some cases, where the plaintiff is permanently made unable to work because of the injury, the defendant may be required to pay the lost wages he or she would have made over the course of a lifetime.
General Damages are awarded to victims to compensate for non-economic loss such as emotional distress and pain & suffering. These loses are generally not quantifiable and difficult to evaluate, though insurance companies and lawyers have formulas to approximate their value.
Pain and Suffering: General damages for pain and suffering vary depending on the nature of the injury. Juries are more likely to award higher value in general damages for pain and suffering when there is significant injury involved, or when the plaintiff has gone through severe trauma.
Emotional Distress: When an accident or injury puts the victim in emotional distress, the defendant may be required to pay for compensation for emotional distress. This often requires proof such as psychiatric records or official diagnosis for cases such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Punitive damages are only allowed in some states. Unlike Compensatory damages, punitive damages, though awarded to plaintiffs, are not meant to make the plaintiffs “whole” but as punishment for the defendant for negligence and egregious or wrongful behavior. This also serves as a deterrent for such behavior and as a warning for defendants.”