Damages 101: Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
The end goal of any personal injury lawsuit is justice for the wrong committed against you. That justice is meted out by financial compensation. That compensation in the legal sphere is referred to as “damages.”
Whether you’ve been injured as a result of a slip and fall, an auto accident, medical malpractice, a burning incident, defective product or otherwise, you could be eligible to receive damages from the defendant. To do so, you have to prove that the defendant was “negligent” (§768.81). To be sure, you must prove that the defendant was responsible for your safety and health in some way, and their failure to uphold this duty led to your injury.
How do damages work in a legal context? To start, there are two umbrella categories for damages — compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages are typically broken into two separate categories: general and special.
General compensatory damages are given to plaintiffs for non-monetary damages in the lawsuit. These damages are not tied to a specific medical bill or ongoing care costs — they compensate victims for the intangible things. The most common types of general compensatory damages include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of companionship (also called consortium); and
- Lowered quality of life.
Special compensatory damages are tied directly to financial expenses incurred by your injury. These damages compensate the injured individual for the money they lost due to the incident that resulted in their injuries. These expenses can vary widely from case to case and are often unique to the facts of each case and plaintiff.
The most common types of special compensatory damages include:
- Medical bills;
- Loss of wages;
- Loss of future wages;
- Cost of future medical care and ongoing health care; and
- Household expenses now made difficult to manage as a result of the injury.
Punitive damages are far less common than compensatory damages in personal injury awards. To be sure, they are awarded in a very small number of cases.
As the name indicates, they are not related to the specific expenses incurred by the injury and accident; instead, they are levied by the court to punish the defendant for egregious or despicable actions or behavior.
Punitive damages can arise, for example, in a case related to an auto incident. If the driver was found guilty in criminal court of driving under the influence, the plaintiff might file a personal injury claim to receive compensation for their injuries and property damage. The judge could award punitive damages to the plaintiff to punish the egregious behavior of the defendant. This can also occur in defective product cases, when a large corporation is proven to have cast off warnings or concerns over a product that ended up harming an individual or individuals.
Do You Need Help Following an Injury?
If you’ve been injured in Florida and need help paying off your medical bills, contact the lawyers at Boone & Davis today. Our attorneys have been serving Broward County for more than 35 years, and we are prepared to provide you with immediate assistance.