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Understanding Different Types of Damages

When those who have been seriously injured win large awards after a jury trial the press typically publishes the total amount that the plaintiff has been awarded. What usually does not get covered is what that total amount of money is based on. Whether a case is resolved by a settlement, after a bench trial, or through a jury verdict, once it is decided that a plaintiff should be awarded money a lot of different factors are taken into account to decide how much money that should be. The money that is awarded in compensation for a loss or injury is called “damages.” Here we discuss a few of the different type of damages that can come up in personal injury cases. There are three main categories: General damages, special damages, and punitive damages.

What are Special Damages?

Special damages are the least controversial type of damages and are often the easiest to deal with. Exactly what special damages will be involved in a case depend on who was injured and how he or she was injured, but they include things like lost earnings or medical expenses. If a person is in a car accident and as a result she has $20,000 in medical bills, and a judge or jury decides that she should be compensated for those bills, those would be considered special damages. These are typically the easiest to deal with because a plaintiff can prove an exact amount. For example, if the car accident caused the woman to miss two weeks of work she can prove exactly how much pay she lost out on by introducing proof of her pay rate.

What are General Damages?

General damages are a little more complicated. These are damages that are certainly real, but are harder to quantify. They include things like physical pain, mental suffering, and lifestyle compromises. Imagine that the woman in the car accident will now suffer a lifetime of severe knee pain as a result of the accident. Most people would agree that she deserves to be compensated for that pain, but there is no simple bill or check stub she can use to prove how much compensation is appropriate. Similarly, imagine that this woman had been a passionate runner and that she loved nothing more than running marathons. Having that taken away from her would certainly be a loss, but how does one put a price tag on it? In Georgia, jurors are supposed to apply their common sense, experience, and human emotions to the facts of the case in determining damages. Because the jurors are members of the community in which the accident happened, they are uniquely situated to understand what these sorts of injuries are worth in this community.

What are Punitive Damages?

The final and most rare type of damages are punitive damages. These damages are highly regulated by state law. When they can be applied is limited, as is the total amount that can be ordered. Additionally, these damages must be proven by a higher degree of proof than other types of damages. Punitive damages do not compensate an injured person for his or her loss or injury. Instead they are designed specifically to punish the person or company at fault for some sort of particularly bad behavior that resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

Contact Goldstein & Hayes, P.C.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to the negligence of another and you have questions about what kinds of damages you may be entitled to recover, Contact the personal injury attorneys at Goldstein & Hayes, PC today for a free consultation.