Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

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What Are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?

In a personal injury lawsuit, compensatory damages are paid by the defendant to the victim to compensate them for losses caused by the personal injury. Compensatory damages may be awarded for a wide range of different losses.  

In some cases, compensatory damages can cover other damages that are a “reasonable consequence” of the defendant’s negligence. Each state may have different limits and rules regarding compensatory damage awards. In general, a judge or jury can exercise wide discretionary power when calculating and issuing compensatory damage awards.   

What Types of Losses Do Compensatory Damages Usually Cover?

Compensatory damages may be awarded in two different forms. First, “special damages” compensate the victim for their monetary losses. Secondly, “general damages” compensate the victim for non-monetary losses. 

General Compensatory Damages:

While the specific rules may vary by jurisdiction, the following personal injury losses can be recovered through a compensatory damages award:

Special Compensatory Damages:

Special compensatory damages are monetary expenses that are incurred by the plaintiff because of the injury. Special compensatory damages are unique to the plaintiff's claim and are designed to cover any expenses or loss that are related to the injury.

In some jurisdictions, personal injury laws place a “cap” or limit on the amount of damages that a victim can receive in a lawsuit.  In any case, a compensatory damages award must be reasonable and proportionate to the victim’s losses.

What Factors Are Considered When Calculating Compensatory Damages?

When calculating compensatory damages in a personal injury claim, courts will usually consider factors such as:

All of these factors are considered in detail, and the victim may need to provide additional proof in light of such factors.  For example, the victim may need to provide documents such as pay stubs, medical receipts, and witness testimonies. 

How Can I Collect Compensatory Damages?

A plaintiff becomes entitled to damages in a personal injury claim after a settlement has been reached or after a court has awarded a judgment. Being granted compensatory damages and actually collecting the damages are different.

The plaintiff usually has to collect the damages from the defendant by either placing liens on defendant's property, wage garnishment, or other methods if the defendant does not want to pay the damages after the judgment. If the defendant is responsible for paying damages and has liability insurance, the insurance company will usually pay the damages without any difficulty on plaintiff.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?

Filing for compensatory damages can sometimes be a complex task. If you need assistance with a personal injury claim, you may wish to speak with a personal injury lawyer for advice and/or representation in court. Since personal injury and tort laws vary by state, you may need the expertise of an attorney for your lawsuit. 

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Last Modified: 03-02-2017 11:57 AM PST

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