Special Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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What are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In a personal injury claim, special damages are awarded to compensate the victim for measurable monetary losses.  Special damages are calculated according to fair market values at the time of the injury, and only include tangible losses.  A common example of special damages is an award for lost wages.

Special damages are usually placed in contrast to “general damages”.  General damages are awarded for intangible losses that may be difficult to calculate.  These may include loss of reputation, loss of companionship, or emotional pain and suffering. 

Both general damages and special damages in a personal injury lawsuit are included under the broader category of compensatory damages.  These are damages awards that are intended to compensate the victim, rather than punish the defendant.     

What do Special Damages Cover?

Special damages cover losses that can easily be calculated or quantified into dollar amounts.  In a personal injury setting, the following types of losses are usually classified under special damages rules:

In general, damages in a personal injury claim are awarded for the purpose of placing the victim in the position that they would have been in if the injury had not taken place. 

In most personal injury claims, the special damages must be clearly stated in a defined amount before trial begins.  The total of the special damages is referred as the “sum certain”.   Thus, calculations involving special damages are an important step in determining the worth of your personal injury claim

Are Special Damage Awards the Same in Contract Claims?

You should be aware that the term “special damages” has a very different meaning in contract claims as opposed to personal injury claims.  In a contracts lawsuit, special damages cover losses that “flow” or result from the breach of contract, but are not easily foreseeable or calculable.  

Also, in most contract claims, special damages must be specifically requested, since they cover losses that are not a direct, foreseeable effect of a breach of contract.  In contrast, special damages are a routine aspect of most personal injury claims. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Special Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Personal injury lawsuits can sometimes involve complex calculations of the victim’s losses.  If you have any issues at all regarding a personal injury claim, you may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer for advice.  An attorney in your area can help determine what types of losses you can be compensated for according to the laws of your state. 

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Last Modified: 10-13-2011 12:20 PM PDT

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