3 Types of Damages Available in a Lawsuit

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2018.

In civil law, “damages” refer to both the losses a victim suffers in a personal injury accident and the compensation recoverable with a lawsuit. While every claim will result in a different damage award based on the specifics of the case, all share the same types of damages in Alabama. There are three main categories of damages the courts can award a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, each broken down into smaller compensation types.

Special Damages

Special compensatory damages arise in almost every personal injury claim. All types of accidents and injuries can result in special damages, including slip and falls, auto accidents, dog bites, medical malpractice and product liability. They encompass the category that reimburses an accident victim for the real and economic damages that he or she suffered because of the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing. Damages in this category include:

  • Past and future medical expenses. The full cost of all medical care the victim will need in relation to his or her accident injuries, as well as what he or she has already had to pay. This includes hospital bills, live-in nursing, medical equipment, and treatments.
  • Property damages. If the victim sustained any property damage in the accident, such as a totaled car or bicycle, he or she can seek recovery for the costs to repair or replace the property.
  • Lost wages. Lost wages are a common type of special damage, applicable when the plaintiff has to miss work to recover or go to doctor’s appointments. Lost wages can also cover lost future earnings due to a temporary or permanent disability.
  • Costs of altered or cancelled plans. If an injury interfered with the victim’s plans to go somewhere or do something, such as an upcoming vacation, the victim can request compensation for what it cost to alter or cancel the plans.

Special damages can also include the costs of a funeral or burial in a wrongful death claim. Special damages are generally easy to calculate since they deal with hard numbers, such as the exact amount of medical bills and property damage repairs. This award is unique to each individual. The amount will vary depending on the severity of the injuries, the victim’s income level prior to the accident, and how long the victim will be in recovery.

General Damages

General damages are the non-economic or intangible losses a victim suffers in an accident, such as pain and suffering. General compensatory damages seek to reimburse a victim for harms “generally” or often sustained in the type of accident or injury. These harms can include:

  • Physical pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Psychological suffering
  • Lost quality of life
  • Lost enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Any damages that are less specific than special damages may fall under the category of general damages in an accident claim. The jury decides the amount of general damages awarded in a claim and will base the decision on the severity of the injury, the age of the victim, whether the injury is permanent, and many other factors.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are additional awards that a plaintiff may receive in addition to compensatory and general damages in Alabama. Punitive damages serve not to compensate a victim for losses, but to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are a way for the courts to show others that the state will not tolerate actions such as the defendant’s. One might get punitive damages if the defendant was grossly negligent, malicious, wanton, or had an intent to harm.

Like many states, Alabama has a damage cap in place to limit the amount of punitive damages a victim can receive. Section 6-11-21 of the law states that no punitive damages award shall exceed either three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. If the defendant is a small business, the punitive damage award cannot exceed either $50,000 or 10% of the company’s net worth, whichever is greater. Exceptions to the damage cap exist, however, so contact an attorney for information about your exact case.