Updated May 17, 2022

Special Damages vs. General Damages: What’s the Difference?

Special Damages vs. General Damages

There are two types of compensatory damages you can receive when you file a personal injury claim: special damages and general damages. Sometimes they are also referred to as economic and non-economic damages.

When filing a personal injury claim, you should be aware of the differences between damage types so you have a better understanding of what types of compensation you may be awarded. 

Damages are monetary compensation for any harm done to a claimant by an at-fault party. This at-fault party may have acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally caused harm.

 As mentioned above, personal injury damages are either special (economic) or general (non-economic).

 In this article, we offer different examples of both types of damages so you can better understand which category your case may fit under.

General Damages

Types of General Damages

Injuries come in all shapes and sizes, including but not limited to:

  •   Physical pain and suffering
  •   Disfigurement
  •   Physical impairment
  •   Mental health issues
  •   Loss of love, care, and companionship
  •   Reduced quality of life
  • Future pain and suffering

When it comes to general damages, whether or not the defendant was able to anticipate the injury does not prevent the claimant from receiving full compensation for any harm done. 

An example: Driver 1 is the negligent party in a minor car accident. Driver 2 has a rare bone condition that is aggravated by the accident. Driver 1 may be responsible for all of Driver 2’s general damages. This is the case even if a driver without a bone condition would have experienced no injury as a result of the accident. Each specific plaintiff’s condition is unique to their case, meaning “What ifs?” don’t come into play.

How to Calculate General Damages

When it comes to general damages, it is often difficult to calculate the exact monetary amount that each plaintiff should be awarded. For example, compensation for mental suffering—or, in some cases, even embarrassment—will differ for each individual case. Often, outside experts, such as mental health professionals, are brought in to help determine an exact dollar amount for general damages compensation.

Some determining factors include the intensity of an injury, the emotions of the jury, and the skillset of the injured party’s lawyer. This is why it’s critical to work with an experienced attorney who knows how to maximize your compensation.

Special Damages

Special damages further compensate an injured party for losses they have received because of the at-fault party’s actions or inactions. Special damages amounts can be calculated by determining a sum total loss for the plaintiff’s injuries. This can be achieved because a specific dollar amount is attached to each of the damages.

A typical example of special damages is the total amount of medical bills received due to post-accident treatments for the plaintiff.

For property damage, referring to similar past accidents can sometimes help determine the amount the at-fault party is liable for. Car values can easily be determined by consulting resources like the Kelley Blue Book.

Types of Special Damages 

When it comes to special damages, each case is unique. Here are a few items that fit within this category: 

  •   Property damage
  •   Lost wages and loss of earnings
  •   Medical treatment costs (including past and/or future)
  •   Costs toward everyday household assistance necessitated by the injury
  •   Loss of one-of-a-kind items

How to Calculate Special Damages

Special damages are easier to calculate than general damages because exact dollar amounts have already been assigned to each item in the form of receipts. Documentation can be either digital or on paper.

An example: A slip and fall may require medical treatment totaling $8,000. Due to the fall, the plaintiff also missed four days of work. At $500 a day, that’s $2,000. So, the plaintiff should be awarded $10,000 for their injury. 

Now let’s suppose the plaintiff was also holding an antique lamp they had just purchased before they fell. If the lamp cost $2,000, then the at-fault party’s negligence would now total $12,000.

Special damages get more complicated when a dollar amount needs to be attached to future medical care and future lost wages. Sometimes, expert witnesses and evidence need to become involved.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today 

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of another party’s negligence, contact an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer at Wilson Kehoe Winingham. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Call 317.920.6400 or fill out our online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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