This site uses cookies.

Understanding damages in personal injury cases helps to set the right expectations about the compensation

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

How much compensation to claim in a personal injury case depends on how well you can evaluate the worth of the case in terms of the suffering and damages undergone by the claimant. Only a personal injury attorney like the one you find at can evaluate it from a legal perspective to judge its merit in claiming compensation and then work out the financial value of the losses. The attorney can figure out how much did the injury cost you not only monetarily but also physically and mentally and up to the extent of seeking punishment of the defendant due to the irresponsible conduct.

In a personal injury case in the USA, the person or company legally responsible for the accident that caused the victim or plaintiff to suffer damages must pay monetary compensation to the plaintiff. Usually, the defendant’s insurance company settles the claim for compensation through a process of negotiation with the attorney of the plaintiff or a jury or judge if the case moves to court.

Now the question arises about what kind of damages can be a part of personal injury compensation claims. In this article, we will discuss the different kinds of damages that qualify for claiming compensation in personal injury cases and how the action of the plaintiff affects the claim and compensation amount.

Compensatory damages

The purpose of compensation in personal injury cases is to make good for the losses undergone in the accident, which is why it is compensatory in nature. The money should help the plaintiff to recover losses of all kinds that resulted from the accident - from loss of pay to the cost of medical treatment for injuries as well as the pain and suffering including mental agony. In simple words, it means assigning a dollar value to the consequences of an accident. Property damages, loss of earnings and medical bills are easy to quantify as these are tangible, but the difficult part is to estimate the losses for intangible things like pain and suffering that is not possible to quantify. Other losses, too like the inability of the plaintiff to pursue hobbies due to lingering physical problems after the accident are difficult to estimate but forms a part of the compensation claimed.

Types of compensatory damages

Damages can be of different types, some very unique too, depending on the circumstances that the plaintiff goes through after the accident but broadly speaking there are seven types of damages that personal injury lawyers normally consider.

Medical treatment - The money spent by the plaintiff as part of medical care after the accident due to the injuries is always the major head of compensation. It includes the amount of reimbursement for the expenses incurred for medical treatment as well as the expenses that the plaintiff must bear in the future for continued medical care because of the accident.

Property loss – In a car accident, most likely, there can be vehicle damage due to collision and even damages to clothing and other items that can qualify for compensation. You can claim reimbursement of the cost of repairing the damaged vehicle or obtain fair compensation for the market value of the damage to property.

Income – The accident can result in your inability to earn, and you can claim compensation for the losses undergone because of salary and wages that you had to forgo during the period of recovery from the effects of the accident. The compensation can also include the money that you would have been able to make in future had the accident not prevented you. The lawyer would take into account the loss of your capacity of earning and include it in the claim.

Emotional distress – Some serious accidents can not only cause physical damage to the victim but also result in mental trauma that can lead to severe emotional distress as the person remains disoriented and mentally shattered. These are psychological impacts of the accident that can have to affect the process of recovering from injuries as the victim may suffer from loss of sleep, fear, and anxiety. Depending on the state, rules may allow claiming separately for emotional distress, or some states merge the category of claim with pain and suffering.

Pain and suffering – Whether people suffer injuries or not, accidents cause pain and suffering to the victims who are entitled to claim compensation for it. It is normal that you experience pain and discomfort after an accident that you can claim compensation. You can consider any pain that was not there before but resulted from the accident and keeps lingering to include in the claim for compensation.

Loss of enjoyment – Accidents can prevent you from enjoying your day to day activities that you enjoy, like exercising, socializing, hobbies and other recreational activities for which you can claim compensation for loss of enjoyment.

Loss of consortium – Accidents can have a serious effect on the relationship with your spouse as you might not be able to maintain a sexual relationship or even fail to provide companionship. It creates a distance between the couple that translates into a loss of consortium and qualifies for claiming compensation. The relationship between a parent and a child can also go through similar stress in a relationship when any one of them is a victim of an accident. Sometimes, the family receives the compensation directly instead of the plaintiff.

Punitive damages

If the conduct of the defendant is too much careless that may even be outrageous; then the plaintiff may receive punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages awarded to them. The purpose of imposition of penalty on the defendant should act as a deterrent.

Who was at fault that caused the accident is the main consideration to determine if compensation is payable and to what extent. You can qualify for full compensation provided you can prove comprehensively that it was 100% negligence or carelessness of the other party that caused the accident. In case, you are even partially responsible for the accident; you may either receive partial compensation depending to the extent to which the other party was responsible or denied compensation depending on the laws of the state.

All information on this site was believed to be correct by the relevant authors at the time of writing. All content is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. No liability is accepted by either the publisher or the author(s) for any errors or omissions (whether negligent or not) that it may contain. 

The opinions expressed in the articles are the authors' own, not those of Law Brief Publishing Ltd, and are not necessarily commensurate with general legal or medico-legal expert consensus of opinion and/or literature. Any medical content is not exhaustive but at a level for the non-medical reader to understand. 

Professional advice should always be obtained before applying any information to particular circumstances.

Excerpts from judgments and statutes are Crown copyright. Any Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of OPSI and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland under the Open Government Licence.