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General Damages vs. Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case

By: Fred Moore | Jun 11, 2024

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it’s important to understand which types of damages you may be entitled to recover in a personal injury claim. Over the past 40 years, Moore Law Firm has served more than 15,000 personal injury victims in Mobile, AL, and the surrounding areas. Our personal injury attorneys explain the differences between general vs. special damages and how they are determined.

What are General Damages?

Also known as non-economic damages, general damages are intangible losses that someone has experienced due to an accident or injury. General damages are meant to compensate an injured victim for issues like pain and suffering and other damages specific to their circumstances.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering encompasses physical discomfort and emotional distress resulting from an accident or injury. This may include chronic pain, mental anguish, and psychological trauma such as anxiety, fear, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Because pain and suffering damages involve subjective experiences, their valuation can vary widely from case to case. Some factors that are usually considered in personal injury claims involving pain and suffering include the extent of the person’s injury and the general impact it’s had on their life and mental and physical health. Records for medical and psychological treatment, expert testimony, and witness testimony of those close to the victim can be valuable evidence when proving pain and suffering damages.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

General damages may also include compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life. This refers to a victim’s inability to engage in hobbies and activities they once enjoyed. For example, someone who sustains a spinal cord injury may be unable to participate in recreational sports or outdoor activities they once loved, leading to a diminished quality of life.

Loss of Companionship or Consortium

Loss of consortium refers to the loss of the benefits and companionship that an injured victim’s spouse or other loved ones would have otherwise received if not for their injury. This may include the inability to engage in intimate relations or the loss of love, companionship, and emotional support.

Disfigurement

To claim damages for disfigurement, a personal injury lawyer must prove that a plaintiff’s injury resulted in a significant and permanent alteration to their physical appearance. The severity, location, and emotional impact of disfigurement are all taken into account when determining these types of damages.

Because non-economic damages are subjective, they can be challenging to quantify in dollar amounts. That’s why you need an experienced personal injury attorney who understands how to accurately value general vs. special damages.

What are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Special damages are specific financial losses incurred by an injured victim. Unlike general damages, which address intangible harm, special damages are quantifiable and can be objectively calculated based on actual expenses and financial records.

Past and Future Medical Expenses

Special damages include the cost of medical expenses related to the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of an accident victim’s injuries. This can include the cost of hospitalization, surgery, doctor’s appointments, prescription medications, physical and occupational therapy, assistive devices, long-term nursing care, and other healthcare services necessary for the injured party’s recovery. Transportation costs for medical appointments, home modifications to accommodate disabilities, and other injury-related expenses may also be considered.

Medical bills, receipts, and statements from health care providers can provide documentation of medical costs, however, determining future medical expenses is more complicated. Personal injury lawyers often consult with medical experts and financial professionals to estimate future medical costs.

Past and Future Wage Loss

Special damages also cover compensation for lost wages and loss of earning capacity due to an injured victim’s inability to work. Tax returns, pay stubs, and other evidence of income can back up claims for past and future wage loss. To calculate future income losses, a personal injury attorney may also enlist the help of medical and financial experts to demonstrate the anticipated duration of time off work, their capabilities, and diminished earning capacity.

Property Damage

In cases involving property damage, special damages may include compensation for the repair or replacement of damaged property. This can include vehicles, personal belongings, or other assets that were harmed as a result of a negligent party’s actions. To prove property damage, the plaintiff must present evidence such as repair estimates, receipts for replacement costs, photographs of the damaged property, and any other documentation that supports its value.

How a Mobile Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

It’s important to note that calculating general and special damages isn’t always easy, especially if someone has a serious condition like a traumatic brain injury that requires lifelong medical treatment or hinders a person’s ability to work. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to properly calculate general and special damages and demonstrate why the injured victim is entitled to receive them. They also have access to investigators, medical experts, financial professionals, accident reconstructionsts, and other resources that help them gather evidence and create convincing arguments that give injured victims the best chance of successful outcomes.  

Contact A Personal Injury Attorney in Mobile, AL

At Moore Law Firm, our team cares about you and your family. We help you understand your rights and options after an injury and provide compassionate legal support you can trust. Call us at 251-445-7602, use the convenient chat feature on our website, or contact us to schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Mobile, AL today.