When individuals are involved in accidents that were caused due to someone else’s negligence and the victim becomes injured or sustains property damage or additional losses, they have the right to seek compensation for their pain and suffering. The legal definition for this is to restore someone to the original condition they were in prior to the accident.
For instance, a wife and husband were traveling together on the highway when, out of nowhere, a person ran a stop sign and caused a serious accident. The couple could file a car accident lawsuit against the driver and request payment for damages sustained in the crash, as well as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It is important for personal injury plaintiffs who are filing a lawsuit to understand the types of damages and compensation they may be entitled to.
What Are Damages in a Lawsuit?
The two types of damages in personal injury suits are compensatory and punitive. There are numerous types of damages that can be considered as compensatory, but for the purposes of this specific situation, there are only two categories: special damages and general damages.
Compensatory damages reimburse or compensate injured individuals for the pain they’ve endured. In most injury lawsuits, money for compensatory damages is readily available. This includes automobile accident, slip & fall, and medical malpractice claims. Compensatory damages may also be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits.
On the other hand, punitive damages aren’t connected directly to any harm the victim suffered. Punitive damages punish the party for being negligent in causing harm to another individual. The injured plaintiff will be awarded punitive and compensatory damages by the court.
Special Damages for Personal Injury
When a party brings a suit against another business or individual due to a loss or injury, this is known as a personal injury lawsuit. The injured party requests damages as compensation for the negligent party who caused the injury. Additional compensatory damages could be requested to cover expenses or losses that are related to the accident. No limit is placed on the type of special damage claims that victims can make, nor is there a limit to the overall amount of compensation victims can claim.
Some common types of special damages include the following:
- Property damage replacement or repair
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity or wages
- Costs related to canceled trips or altered plans
- Loss of items deemed irreplaceable
General damages refer to the kind of harm that commonly occurs in most injury situations. The court awards general damage compensation to injured individuals for non-monetary damages that were suffered in an accident. Typically, it’s expected that each personal injury victim will sustain general damages.
Some common types of general damages include the following:
- Loss of enjoyment
- Mental despair
- Suffering and pain
- Loss of a spouse
Wrongful Death Damages
In the event of a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members and loved ones are awarded damages by the court.
Some common types of wrongful death damages include the following:
- Victim’s income
- Deceased’s savings and estate
- Loss of family/companionship, including punitive pain and suffering damages
- Funeral and medical expenses
- Survivors’ level of dependence
Damages sustained in a wrongful death case could be based on specific details, including the cause of death. If a person was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident, for example, liability could be determined easily. The plaintiffs in the accident can file a wrongful death suit and receive the other driver’s entire insurance amount per their policy. However, in a defective medical device suit where a patient died, there may not be enough to establish liability or negligence. It has to be proven that the medical device the patient was using was defective, as well as how many parties might have been involved. Additionally, the court has the authority to determine the amount of suffering a deceased victim may have endured prior to death, which can therefore be factored into the amount of compensation the plaintiff receives.
A court will only award punitive damages to victims if the negligent party’s irresponsible behavior is considered to be reprehensible. For instance, if a defendant commits fraudulent or malicious acts, punitive damages would be awarded to the plaintiff. Some examples of these actions include aggravated battery, fraudulent acts, sexual assault, or substantial financial harm. In the past, juries have awarded punitive damages against wealthy manufacturers who were guilty of manufacturing harmful prescription drug medications or defective products.
In most criminal court cases, the court itself sets specific sentencing guidelines. In civil trials, juries or judges carefully weigh evidence to legally determine if a defendant is responsible for the suspected damages.
Collecting Damages Awarded by the Court
When a judge and jury have made a judgment in court or a settlement has been reached without a trial, the plaintiff is entitled to any damages they were awarded. However, being awarded damages is one thing. Collecting the settlement money is another.
The defendant who was ordered to pay for the damages may not be able or willing to pay. If liability coverage is present through the defendant’s insurance company, they will pay up to the limit set by the policy. In order to force payment from the defendant, the plaintiff’s lawyer may have to put a lien on their home or garnish their wages. They may also need to look for any undisclosed assets that weren’t declared by the defendant. Interest will continue to accrue until all of the damages are paid in full, no matter how long it takes for the plaintiff to receive compensation.
Waiting For a Settlement
Plaintiffs often find themselves in difficult financial situations as the lengthy legal process may take months or even years in some cases. During this waiting period, injured plaintiffs will still have to pay their mortgage, student loans, medical bills, and any other regular expenses. There are cases where a plaintiff has suffered injuries that prevent them from returning to work to earn income.
To help put plaintiffs and their families back on their feet, The Legal Funding Group offers pre-settlement funding. With pre-settlement funding, you get a cash advance on your lawsuit settlement to help pay your bills and other expenses. Our legal funding application requires no credit checks or review of past financial history.
Contact us today for more information or apply online.