“Damages” is a general legal term referring to a financial award of compensation to the injury victim in a personal injury case, or the family of someone who is wrongfully killed. Damages are a monetary amount designed to reimburse an injured party for all of their harms and losses.
There are two main categories of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim. This type of damage relates directly to the victims or their loved ones, and may include the following:
- Lost wages (Past and Future)
- Medical expenses (Past and Future)
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The other form of damages is referred to as punitive damages. This monetary damage may not be related to the loss that the victim suffered. Instead, the amount awarded is meant to punish the wrongdoer and send a message to the community that this type of act will not be tolerated in the future. Sometimes, this type of damage is compared to a fine or fee for committing a wrong.
Punitive damages are only available in certain types of cases. In personal injury, for example, it may only be available if the act was particularly reckless, careless or if the wrongdoer harmed the victim on purpose.
NOTE: When it comes to punishing corporations, punitive damages are generally extremely large. Negligent multi-million and billion dollar companies will never change their dangerous behavior if the fine imposed makes no difference to their financial situation. They will simply include the fine in their annual cost benefit analysis and continue the dangerous conduct.
Compensatory Damages: Economic and Non-Economic
Some compensatory damages are easier to calculate than others. Past medical expenses, for example, are easy to show because the victim will have medical bills that he or she can enter as evidence of damages. Other damages, such as pain and suffering, do not come with a specific price tag and require special attention to ensure injury victims are not taken advantage of by the insurance industry.
The damages that are easier to calculate are usually referred to as economic damages. They are also sometimes referred to as special damages or actual costs because they are more specific, such as:
- Lost Wages. You may be entitled to compensation for any time that you could not go to work. That includes any situation where you may need recovery time or you are not able to go back to work at all because of your injuries. You can also receive compensation for any lost future earnings if you lose the ability to make as much money as you once did. While past lost wages can be easier to calculate, future lost wages are often heavily contested by the insurance industry and require more evidence.
- Medical Expenses. Medical expenses are one of the most common economic damages. It will generally include past, current, and future medical expenses. This type of damage is perhaps the most important to those who have been injured because medical bills add up very quickly, especially in cases that involve serious injuries. As such, financial ruin can result if a victim is not fully reimbursed for their expenses. Future medical expenses are often contested by the insurance industry and require reports from medical providers and specific testimony from experts to be fully reimbursed.
- Funeral Expenses. In wrongful death cases, funeral expenses can be a significant burden. For grieving families, having the added expense of a funeral is devastating. Receiving damages can help eliminate these costs.
- Reimbursement for damaged or destroyed property. If anything is damaged in the accident, you may be entitled to reimbursement for repairs or for the fair market value of the destroyed property. This ranges wildly—from vehicles to clothing.
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses that are related to the accident. Whether it is gauze from the store or travel expenses, if you have incurred another expense that you would not have incurred but for the crash, you may be entitled to reimbursement for the cost.
Damages that require more thought in order to properly calculate are usually known as non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are generally much larger than economic damages, and awards very significantly.
- Pain and Suffering. Pain and suffering damages are designed to reimburse you for any discomfort that you may have endured because of the accident. This damage amount also includes any future pain and suffering that you may have to endure.
- Emotional Distress. In serious accidents, emotional scarring is relatively common. You are also entitled to compensation for the psychological damage that you may have suffered because of the accident.
- Loss of Enjoyment. When your accident dramatically affects your life and you can longer do the things that you love, including recreational activities or even basic daily tasks, then the wrongdoer must pay for that under Missouri law.
- Loss of consortium. This form of damages is used to compensate loved ones who have suffered in a unique way after your personal injury. For example, when the injury affects a spouse in a distinctive way, such as the couple’s sexual relationship or companionship that their spouse provided before the accident. Sometimes children can recover this type of damage as well if they suffer the unique loss of a parent.
In all personal injury cases, victims are entitled to compensation that involves a mix of economic and non-economic damages. Your personal injury attorney will help you determine what types of damages are appropriate for your particular case. Each type of damage will require that you prove different things, and your attorney will help you through this process.
Punitive damages are unique because they are more focused on the wrongdoer than on the victim. Although the victim receives the damages, the damages are imposed as a punishment to the wrongdoer and to deter any future bad conduct. For very serious wrongdoers, punitive damage amounts can be quite large.
Punitive damages appear more often in cases that involve:
- Wanton or malicious acts
- Significant health risks
Recover Your Damages By Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been involved in an accident that is due to the fault of another person or entity, you deserve to be compensated. The Dixon Injury Firm is an experienced personal injury firm that can help you recover everything you deserve. Proving damages often means that you must present complicated evidence that shows the full picture of your losses, past, present and future. This often requires specialized medical and financial experts whose testimony will help to ensure you are receiving full reimbursement for your harms and losses.
The Dixon Injury Firm has helped recover over $35,000,000 in verdicts, settlements and judgments for injury victims. Don’t let the insurance company take advantage of you. Schedule a free consultation by calling 314-409-7060 today.