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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

What Are Special Damages in Personal Injury Law?

A personal injury case is one of the least straightforward things to deal with for many different reasons. Depending on how the injury came about and how serious it is, there's the matter of adjusting to a potentially new quality of life, which can be mentally agonizing enough.

There could be pay lost from work, medical expenses that just keep mounting, loss of consortium, and more to think about. The damages in a personal injury claim are quite varied and different incidents will be characterized by unique circumstances.

Different kinds of damages may be compensable. For example, there are punitive damages in cases where the defendant intentionally caused harm or was grossly negligent. Today, however, the focus will be on special damages, which are a type of compensatory damages.

Defining Special Damages in Personal Injury Claims

Defining Special Damages in Personal Injury Claims

The term "economic damages" may sometimes be used and these are exactly what special damages are. Effectively, expenses may arise because of the accident that will cost the victim and these can be directly attributed to the defendant's negligence.

Most personal injury claims will consist of both special and general damages, with the latter being the other element of compensatory damages. Special damages are much easier to calculate simply because it's possible to assign a verified monetary value to them.

For example, if the victim ended up suffering a broken arm and sought medical attention, there's a paper trail that indicates the kind of treatment that was received, as well as the various costs that would have arisen out of the said treatment. Therefore, the value of the damages is known.

Common Personal Injury Lawsuit Special Damages

Out-of-pocket Expenses

Think of this as a catch-all category that will represent any other expense not covered by one of the others. This will still be funds that the victim would lose simply because of this injury that was suffered because of the defendant's action. A good example is the cost of transportation to all the medical appointments that now have to be dealt with.

Medical Bills

As the name implies, this is where consideration is made for spending on medical care following the accident. Take a car crash, for example. Depending on how bad the crash was, perhaps an ambulance needed to be called to rush the victim to the hospital. That's a cost. The hospital visit is another cost. Throw in scans, surgery, medicine, follow-up visits, physical therapy, etc.

Lost Wages

Some injuries will mean that victims must miss work. In some cases, this is a temporary matter, while in other cases, the affected party will never be able to return to the same line of work again. Depending on how this goes, it may mean that considerations will need to be made to have the person paid for their recovery time or perpetually into the future.

Property Damage

Personal property may also be damaged because of the accident. Maybe the victim was carrying a cell phone when the incident occurred. A more common occurrence may be a standard car accident where the victim's vehicle may have been damaged or totaled. The expectation here is that the negligent party will be responsible for ensuring that the victim is compensated.

How Are These Damages Calculated?

When a potential client chooses to engage the best personal injury lawyer in Houston, one of the initial concerns will be what the case is worth. Honestly, it's not possible to answer such a question without the case-building process being completed for the attorney to understand exactly what the variables are.

This process will include the documentation of the financial losses that have already been suffered, with consideration for those that are to come. Special damages will form a part of this, as with other applicable damages such as pain and suffering.

Of course, all of those will require some level of evidence to successfully prove. Some of the elements that will assist in solidifying a personal injury case are:

  1. Documentation and receipts that shed light on out-of-pocket expenses

  2. Repair and replacement costs and estimates for damaged property

  3. Copies of medical bills

  4. Employer records illustrating the amount of income lost or the absent days since the accident

Apart from the documentation, attorneys will often use expert witnesses for key points such as:

  1. Confirming the lack of capacity to return to work

  2. How long the injuries have prevented or will prevent the victim from working or normal function

  3. What the prognosis of the injury looks like, including ongoing care and what future care needs will look like

Are Personal Injury Attorneys Necessary?

Personal injury cases are not straightforward. This even applies to instances where who is at fault would seem like a foregone conclusion. Federal, state, and even local laws can come into play. Federal law is complex enough, though thankfully, remains constant across the country. State and local law, however, are more localized and introduce their own distinct variables.

It gets worse when consideration needs to be made for the insurance companies that victims must seek compensation from. They are more concerned with not having to pay than anything else and will use various types of underhanded tactics that are very successful on those without enough legal experience.

Victims Make Missteps on Their Own

Coming from the previous point, negotiations with an insurance company without the assistance of an attorney are a mistake. Not only can insurance companies get people to say things that they don't realize will limit their settlement potential later, but they can also put forward initial settlement offers that seem more than acceptable simply because people don't understand all the factors at play.

This will usually be combined with the fact that accepting the offer can create a situation where it isn't possible to seek further compensation when the true value of the case starts to come to light. When an accident occurs, the victim is stressed and these companies will use that to force a less-than-informed decision.

Personal Injury Cases Can Be Layered with Damages

The focus here has been on special damages, but don't forget that this is just one type that victims may be entitled to after being in an accident. Other damages may be applicable, but they all must be known and proven.

A personal injury attorney has the education, dedication, and experience necessary to identify the different potential entitlements applicable to the case, which is followed by a strategy that's aimed at helping the victim collect what is owed.

The Clock Is Ticking on Personal Injury Lawsuits

Cases that look very similar can be very different and it's impossible to predict where a jury will lean if the matter must go to trial. One of the challenges lies in how quickly the claim follows the incident. The more time that passes, the easier it is for the other side to insinuate that the injury could not have been that serious if the victim decided to wait to file.

The statute of limitations may allow a couple of years for filing but good attorneys know that the earlier the filing takes place the better, and they are also better equipped to build a stronger case the earlier they are allowed to do so. They can also answer questions such as Does homeowners' insurance cover off-property injuries?

General Damages Are Also Common in a Personal Injury Claim

The other important type of compensatory damage to note is general damages. These are not easy to calculate considering that there isn't a form of documentation that will put a dollar value to them. Such damages will typically be on the quality of life side of the fence, which means that they don't exactly have an economic value that is easy to reference.

Considering that they're also very subjective, there's even more expertise required for them to be claimed successfully. For example, how does one value the amount of pain that a victim has to deal with in daily life after the accident has occurred?

Legal professionals have one or more formulas that they can rely on based on the applicable circumstances to help assign a specific monetary value to the occurrence. Expert witnesses may also be brought in here. Typical general damages are as follows:

  1. Mental anguish

  2. Physical pain and suffering

  3. Lost enjoyment

  4. Decreased quality of life

  5. Deformity or disfigurement

  6. Loss of companionship

Taking the Right Steps to Receive Your Compensatory Damages

Taking the Right Steps to Receive Your Compensatory Damages

After an accident occurs, the victim's actions can be the reason the case goes very well or badly.

The most important thing to do is to seek medical attention for both health and record purposes. Additionally, it's also recommended to gather as much evidence at the scene as possible, provide a statement to the police, and reach out to a personal injury attorney.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Houston!

Special damages, while easier to assign values to than general damages, still require the expertise of a personal injury lawyer. They can also give information on questions like What are punitive damages? Without such a professional, insurance companies can make a mocker of the claim, preventing victims from getting the compensation that they deserve!

If you have suffered a personal injury in Houston because of someone else's negligence, you need to speak with an attorney who is willing to go to war for you!

Schedule a free consultation with Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys!


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