Civil lawsuits consist of three types of damages: special, general, and punitive. Understanding special damages vs. general damages is important for calculating the total value of a case pursuing a financial award.
General damages include elements that are not easy to quantify. This can include things like:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
These losses are difficult to apply a dollar value to, instead relying on general concepts of fairness regarding their severity. Try out our pain and suffering calculator to learn more.
How to Calculate General Damages
Calculating general damages can be tricky since these are intangible losses with no direct monetary value, such as quality of life. In some cases, guidelines or statutes exist providing limits or considerations for non-economic damages, but not always.
An attorney can be an immense help when it comes to calculating general damages.
Types of General Damages
There are many types of general damages, and the lines between them are often blurred. Below is an example with an explanation of why it falls into the general damages category.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Loss of quality of life is one of the broader types of general damages. Many things can cause a loss of enjoyment in life, and you can’t easily put a price tag on enjoyment. Consider this example, however.
The victim of a car crash has spent multiple weekends every winter for the past 15 years on ski trips. As the result of a crash caused by a negligent driver, he is unable to ski this year due to physical impairment. In addition to the expenses of car repairs and medical bills, the victim also loses the chance to do something he loves and may be able to receive financial compensation for that loss.
Special damages are the type that has more direct dollar amounts associated with them. Examples of special damages cases include:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Repairs or replacement of property
The monetary figure for these types of damages is less subjective as the losses translate more easily to an exact dollar amount.
How to Calculate Special Damages
Calculating special damages is usually pretty simple, as documentation like receipts, invoices, or pay stubs directly or indirectly determine a financial total.
Types of Special Damages
Special damages cases come in all shapes and sizes, but the important thing is that they will have a physical value attached to them. Below are some common examples and a brief explanation of why they are considered special damages cases.
Medical bills are a common type of special damage in personal injury cases. If one party causes injury to another party resulting in medical expenses, the at-fault party is generally responsible for the cost of associated medical treatment.
Property damage is often calculated by the estimated or actual cost of repairs. A quote or invoice will have a dollar amount that can be used for reference.
Transportation expenses, whether renting a car, taking a taxi, or even buying an airplane ticket, will have a direct cost that can be included as special damages if appropriate.
Loss of earnings can be a little more complicated to calculate, but they are still directly calculated from a dollar amount. They can be more complex because they may include past, current, and future wages along with some other calculations.
Personal Injury Damages = Special Damages + General Damages
The total amount that a plaintiff will pursue in a personal injury claim is the combination of special damages and general damages. Oftentimes special damages are calculated first and used as a reference for general damages.
Punitive damages may also apply, though these are at the judge’s discretion and not included in the amount a plaintiff seeks.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Recover Damages
Personal injury lawyers understand how to calculate compensatory damages for a case so you can seek a fair settlement. Many plaintiffs will seek less than they deserve without an attorney or fail to collect the full amount.
Personal injury lawyers can be especially helpful when it comes to general damages, which are more difficult to calculate than special damages. An experienced legal team will know what amount to pursue maximum results without being unreasonable and hurting your case.
The personal injury lawyers at Denmon Pearlman can help you recover a fair settlement for your injury case. We have the experience and expertise to help you navigate the legal process and determine how much you are owed for your special and general damages.