Just as varied as the types of personal injuries that victims can experience, are the types of personal injury damages that can be awarded. Here Seeger Weiss offers a description of the most common types of personal injury damages—and ones less well known. Having this summary will help you prepare for which personal injury settlement is most likely in your particular case.
Most Common Damages
Compensatory Damages – personal injury damages that are paid to compensate a victim for loss, injury, or harm suffered as a result of another’s breach of duty or negligence.
General Damages –compensation for non-monetary aspects of harm suffered. Examples include physical or emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, disfigurement, loss of reputation, loss or impairment of mental or physical capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. Victims who pursue this form of personal injury settlement should work with a qualified personal injury lawyer because quantifying and proving this can be difficult.
Incidental and Consequential Losses –the costs needed to remedy the problem and put things right, such as the reinstatement of property. An even more illustrative example would be a manufacturing plant that burns down by the negligence of its contractor. The victim would be entitled to direct costs for “incidental” losses to rebuild the plant and replace any damaged interior, processing equipment or produced goods. The victim may also be entitled to “consequential” losses for lost profits while the plant is closed and rebuilt.
Punitive Damages –personal injury damages that punish a defendant and deter them, or others, from committing similar acts in the future. The victim (or plaintiff) and their personal injury lawyer has the burden of proving that punitive damages should be awarded. They have an easier time when a defendant’s conduct was malicious or in reckless disregard of a person’s rights.
Punitive damages are also often awarded where compensatory damages are deemed as inadequate. In many states, punitive personal injury damages are determined based on statute; in others, they are determined based on case law. Damages are usually reserved for defendants who displayed actual intent to cause harm (such as purposefully rear-ending someone else’s car), rather than in cases of mere negligence.
Restitutionary Damages – when a defendant is asked to give up the profits made through a civil wrong as a form of restitution. It is measured according to a defendant’s gain rather than a victim’s loss. This form of personal injury damages is particularly sought in actions for intellectual property rights and breach of fiduciary responsibilities.
Special Damages – compensation for quantifiable personal or commercial monetary losses suffered by the victim, e.g., extra costs, repair or replacement of damaged property, lost earnings, or loss of irreplaceable items.
Statutory Damages – damages in personal injury actions based on a statute rather than a calculated sum of money. Judges will award statutory damages for acts that are difficult to access a value of harm suffered. Note: the basic act of violating the law can entitle a victim to statutory personal injury damages—even if no actual injury occurred.
Less Well Known Damages
Aggravated Damages – awards applied where the injury has been aggravated by the behavior of a wrongdoer, such as acts of cruelty.
Contemptuous Damages – personal injury damages that are rarely awarded because they are usually given when a victim’s suit is trivial.
Hedonic Damages – payment for intangible harm such as severe pain, physical and emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of the enjoyment of life that an injury has caused, including sterility, physical impairment and loss of a loved one, etc. Also known as quality-of-life damages, this compensation covers the family of victims who have died or severely injured victims. This compensation is also especially important for people who do not work outside the home, like the elderly, children, and homemakers.
Nominal Damages – earmarks for very small damages to show that a loss or harm suffered was technical rather than actual. One of the most famous nominal damages award was for the $3 judgment against the National Football League (NFL) in the 1986 antitrust suit prosecuted by the United States Football League.
Speculative Damages – personal injury damages for harm that has not yet occurred, but the victim expects to occur. Typically, these damages cannot be recovered unless the victim and their personal injury lawyer can convincingly prove that they are reasonable.