Personal Injury Law: Defining Compensatory Damages and What It Entails

by Steve Roberts on August 24, 2019

Personal-Injury-Law-Defining-Compensatory-DamagesNew post regarding definition of compensatory damages for personal injury and what it entails (based on law in the US). 

When people are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, one of the first questions that they ask is how much they can receive in compensation for their injuries. In order to know how large the check that you can receive will be, it is important to understand the nature of personal injury compensation. There is a broad category of what is compensable in a personal injury claim or lawsuit, and it is important to be as broad as possible when fashioning your claim without being unreasonable. Here is some information on compensatory damages in personal injury cases.

The Types of Personal Injury Damages

In general, there are two types of damages in a personal injury case. The first type is compensatory damages, which is what this posting is about. The second type of damages are punitive, which is rare in a personal injury case. For punitive damages, there must be something so shocking about the defendant’s conduct that the jury wants to punish them. In most personal injury cases, the only type of damages that the plaintiff receives is compensatory damages. However, in many cases, compensatory damages encompass many different things so that a plaintiff can be fully paid back for any injury that they have suffered.

It is important to know and indeed for your personal injury lawyer to explain to you the two types of compensatory damages. There are economic damages that pay you back for actual losses that you have such as bills, property damage and time missed from work. There are also non-economic damages that measure intangible harms such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium. Some states have statutory caps on non-economic damages.

The goal of compensatory damages is to put the plaintiff in the same position that they would have otherwise been had the accident or incident never happened to them. In many cases, how this is achieved is a topic of much debate between the two sides in the case. As the plaintiff, you will be attempting to include as many possible types of harms in your damage award. Here are some of the categories of compensatory damages so you can understand what to include in your claim.

Pain and Suffering

This is one of the most common elements of compensatory damages. You are entitled to be paid back for everything that you have lost, and your suffering is considered to be a loss since you have had a part of your life impacted by what you have gone through. Generally, this is figured out by applying a multiplier towards your medical bills. However, the multiple may differ based on the insurance adjuster, and the amount of pain and suffering damages may be in dispute. What is difficult about this type of damage is that it is entirely subjective, and there is no legal standard for determining what you are owed. However, that should not dissuade you from seeking to receive reimbursement for all of your damages in this area.

Medical Bills

Many of your medical bills may have been covered by your insurance company. When you settle your claim or get awarded money by the jury, the insurance company will expect to be paid back the medical payments that it has been advanced, and they generally will receive a part of your settlement. Your claim can also include costs for all future medical care that may result from the injury since this care would not have been necessary if not for your accident. This part of your compensation includes both actual costs for medical care as well as any other type of therapy or help that you may need. For example, if you need home health care, that can be covered.

Lost Wages

You are entitled to be compensated for any time that you have missed from work due to your accident. Not only does this cover past income, but it also applies to work that you will miss in the future. If your injuries will keep you from working in your chosen profession, the settlement that you receive should reflect your economic loss. This damage applies even if the person injured has died and the lawsuit has become a wrongful death suit. Even if you have been able to work, but have missed time for doctor’s appointments to care for your injuries, that missed time is also compensable.

Mental Anguish

This is a different category than pain and suffering, although the two are often confused with each other. As opposed to compensating you for the physical pain that you have suffered, this type of damage is meant to pay you for the manner in which the experience has affected you emotionally. If you have been in the “zone of danger” for an accident, chances are that you have suffered some sort of trauma that will stay with you long after the incident. In order to receive this type of compensation, you will generally need to have suffered other injuries besides mental anguish, and this becomes one element of a multi-faceted damages claim.

Loss of Consortium

This element of compensatory damages recognizes that there are certain things that a partner provides that can be valued in a claim for damages. Consortium does not just include damages because the partners can no longer have sexual relations, but also factors in the support and nurturing that one spouse provides that are a part of companionship. The more badly hurt the plaintiff is, the higher the estimate of these damages. This is compensation that is also available in a wrongful death claim.

This list of compensatory damages is not exhaustive, meaning there are even more things for which you can be paid if you have suffered personal injury. It is vital to consult a personal injury attorney since they will have the full knowledge of what you can include in your claim to the insurance company or your lawsuit in court.

Steve Roberts
Steve Roberts is the managing attorney at the Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC. Steve is originally from Omaha, Nebraska. After law school in Southern California, he moved to Denver, Colorado where he has developed his personal injury practice and become part of the Colorado legal community as a member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and the Thompson G. Marsh Inn of Court.
Steve Roberts

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