What Are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The law allows individuals who suffer injuries due to other parties to file a legal claim to seek compensation. Injured victims and their families may deserve compensation for their losses. Their losses are typically both economic and non-economic. For instance, a personal injury causes the victim or their family to incur medical bills, but it also causes them pain and suffering.
What Is a Personal Injury?
A personal injury is typically a legal term. It refers to injuries someone suffers at the hands of another party.Personal injuries can arise from:
- Car accidents
- Rideshare accidents
- Semi-truck crashes
- Motorcycle collisions
- Bus crashes
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle or scooter accidents
- Slip and falls
- Medical malpractice
- Premise liability incidents
- Defective products
- Dog bites or animal attacks
- Workplace accidents
- Wrongful death
Personal injury cases typically have two requirements:
- Liability: Another party was liable for the damages the victim sustained
- Damages: The nature and extent of the victim’s damages can be proven
If the injured party can prove liability and damages, the court awards them compensation for their losses.
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Types of Injuries Involved in Personal Injury Cases
Different physical injuries can give rise to a personal injury claim. Some injuries will be milder, such as bruising and lacerations, and some will be catastrophic or even life-threatening, such as head or spinal injuries. No matter how minor or severe your injury might seem, get a personal injury attorney
to review your accident and injuries. You may recover compensation for your damages.
Common personal injuries
- Broken bones: Fractures are common in motor vehicle accidents and slip and falls. They may require several weeks in a splint or cast or even surgery and physical therapy.
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI) can happen anywhere along the spinal cord and can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): TBIs can be simple concussions that require some extra rest but can also be life-threatening and require surgery. Those that live through severe TBIs may face significant life changes, including not caring for themselves and having personality changes or frequent seizures.
- Internal injuries: Although the spine, ribs, and pelvis protect the internal organs, they are still vulnerable to accidents. Internal organs can suffer extreme bruising and even life-threatening bleeding. These injuries must get treatment right away.
- Burns: Housefires, workplace accidents, and motor vehicle crashes can all cause burns. They can disfigure people and may require plastic surgery with skin grafts. They can also develop life-threatening infections.
- Sprains/strains: Sprains and strains can happen at various joints in the body. In some cases, they require a more extended recovery period than breaks.
- Neck and back injuries: Even if the spinal cord doesn't become injured, neck and back injuries can still be severe and even debilitating. Accidents can, break bones, pull muscles, and cause discs to slip or bulge. In addition, victims may require surgery and sometimes ongoing physical therapy.
- Amputations: Sometimes, the accident itself removes an appendage, or it can damage one so bad that surgical removal is necessary. Amputations alter the victim’s life forever.
- Psychological injuries: While they typically can’t be observed or diagnosed like these other injuries, psychological injuries such as depression and anxiety can develop due to accidents. They often require months or even years of various treatments.
What Are Special Damages?
Special damages are monetary losses arising from a personal injury that can be measured and documented. Establishing special damages in a personal injury claim typically involves collecting receipts, bills, and other documentation revealing the actual costs you incurred because of your injury.
The total amount of your special damages should include your:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and income
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Personal property losses
Special damages, also known as economic damages, can be further divided into five different categories.
Medical Expenses for Injury Diagnosis and Treatment
Your medical bills and records are crucial for your personal injury claim. It’s essential that you or your personal injury attorney request copies of all your related medical bills and records so that you can document your expenses. Be sure you document the total amount billed, not just your copay or deductible.
You or your lawyer should obtain copies of each of your medical bills, even if healthcare insurance or workers' compensation covered them. Unfortunately, Medicare, Medicaid, workers' comp, and most private health insurance companies have the legal right to place a medical lien on your potential settlement to recover what they paid towards your medical bills on your behalf.
Document your medical costs for:
- Ambulance and EMS services
- Hospital and emergency department bills
- Hospital and emergency room doctor services
- Outpatient physician services
- Chiropractic treatments
- Diagnostic tests such as lab work, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and others
- Physicians' charges to interpret and report test results
- Costs for physical/occupation therapy or rehabilitation
You can pursue financial reimbursement for your medical treatment through your personal injury claim
, beginning right after the accident or incident, continuing to the present, and, if applicable, in the future. Suppose you need further surgeries, therapies, or other treatments related to your injury. In that case, those should also be special damages in your claim.
For example, severely injured individuals, like those with spinal cord injuries (SCI) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), might need specialized medical treatment and therapies long into the future. These necessary costs should also be part of the injury claim.
Special therapies may include:
Mental Health Services
It’s not uncommon for injury accidents, especially traumatic ones, to cause:
These mental health conditions often necessitate professional treatment and support. Mental health treatment costs arising specifically from your injuries count as special damages. This includes costs for seeing a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, licensed clinical social worker, and any medications they might prescribe.
Lost Income, Wages, or Earning Capacity
You are also entitled to the reimbursement of all income, wages, and other earnings lost because of your injury. This begins on the day of your injury, through the present, and continues for as long as you cannot work or earn income.
In addition, severe injuries resulting in permanent disability to a child or working adult generate valid claims for loss of earning capacity. If they cannot work and earn a living in the future, they deserve compensation to help support themselves. An experienced personal injury attorney can enlist the help of experts to predict how much the injured individual would have potentially earned before they reached retirement age.
Lost income is best established in a personal injury claim with a verification letter from your employer.
It should detail:
- Your normal pay rate
- The total number of hours you lost
- The total compensation you lost because your injury kept you from working
Request that your employer verifies all lost income and other benefits, including bonuses, PTO that you used or didn’t earn, commissions, and any other potential income you lost.
You deserve to recover all types of lost income and benefits, including:
- Overtime opportunities
- Vacation days used
- Sick leave used
- Lost accrual of vacation or sick days
- Fuel allowance
- Meal allowance
- Use of company vehicle
- Gym membership
- Employer contribution to retirement plans
- Employer contribution to insurance premiums
Out-of-pocket expenses include all other costs and financial obligations or burdens stemming from your accident and subsequent injury.
Depending on your accident and injuries, other related expenses might include:
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications
- Medical equipment, including crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, slings, bandages, etc.
- Fuel and parking expenses when traveling to necessary medical appointments
- Mileage for travel to and from necessary medical appointments
- Rental car fees if one becomes necessary due to an accident
Save the receipts for any purchases related to your injury and treatments, beginning the day you sustained the injury. You can also estimate your future out-of-pocket expenses if they apply.
You can also pursue compensation for replacement services, including:
- Child care
- Pet care and dog walking
- Laundry service
- Meal service
- Lawn care
- Snow removal
These replacement services are eligible losses when the injured individual is paying another person to manage and complete tasks they usually complete on their own had they not suffered an injury. Ensure that you receive a written and detailed statement of cost for each service hired out.
Personal Property or Vehicle Damage
If you're in a motor vehicle crash, you can file a property damage claim for the cost of repairs to your car. If your vehicle was totaled, you have the right to an amount representing its fair market value. You might also claim that expense if you used a rental car while yours was in the shop.
No matter how your injury occurred, you also have the right to seek compensation for any personal property that was damaged or destroyed during the accident. It doesn’t have to be a car accident. For example, you might have lost or broken your eyeglasses or wedding ring in a slip and fall accident.
Damaged or destroyed personal property can include:
- Electronic devices, such as laptop computers, smartphones, earbuds, watches, etc.
- Eyeglasses and sunglasses
- Clothing items
- School supplies
In most jurisdictions, your beloved pet or service animal is also considered personal property. As such, you have the right to seek compensation for their vet bills or loss that occurred because of the accident.
General damages, also known as non-economic damages, also represent the losses you face after a personal injury. However, these damages can be more challenging to establish in a claim because they are subjective. For example, there are no receipts, bills, or wage statements that can show the suffering you and your family have endured due to your injuries. General damages can include:
Pain and Suffering
You had or potentially still have the physical and emotional pain and suffering due to your injuries. Maybe you experience chronic pain and cannot take care of yourself as you did before the accident.
Scarring or Disfigurement
Burns, amputations, deep cuts, bites, and other injuries can all leave victims with severe scarring or disfigurement. They have to live with these changes to their body for the rest of their lives. While plastic surgery, skin grafting, and prosthetics are advanced, they don’t make up for how the victim’s body once was.
Loss of Consortium
Unfortunately, accident victims and those closest to them often suffer changes in their relationships, including intimate relationships. Being intimate or affectionate can become difficult mentally, emotionally, and physically after suffering an injury. The spouse or family members of the injured party typically seek loss of consortium
Mental Anguish and Humiliation
Personal injury victims need to process the accident and their injuries mentally. They may be humiliated by how they look now or what they can no longer do for themselves.
Lost Enjoyment of Life
Injured individuals also often lose their enjoyment of life. For example, they may not go to the places they once did or participate in the activities or hobbies they once enjoyed due to their injuries.
Injured in an Accident? Contact a Knowledgeable Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love recently suffered a personal injury, don’t hesitate to reach out to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. You deserve compensation for your general and special damages. However, depending on the laws in your state, you have a limited amount of time to act. You can maximize your compensation by contacting a well-versed attorney as soon as possible after your accident.