Many people have heard of the concept of suing for damages, but they may not fully understand how those damages work. If you have been injured - physically, emotionally, or financially - it's important to know how your lawsuit can make you whole again and how it can help prevent future bad behavior.
The term damages for legal purposes generally simply means a sum of money. They are the usual outcome when a court determines that one party has been injured by the other party - especially when physical harm is experienced or a business loss is incurred.
Damages are generally broken down into two main categories: Compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are further categorized into general and special damages based on how quantifiable the consequences are. To help you educate yourself throughout your lawsuit, here is a short guide to these basic types of damages.
Special Compensatory Damages
Usually, a person who was injured in an accident, a workplace incident, or an altercation incurs bills and various financial losses. Making a victim whole again starts with compensating them for these actual costs. Such financial compensation often includes:
- Medical, hospital, and doctor bills
- Loss of wages or business income
- Changes in living expenses due to injury
- Replacing or repairing property
- Rehabilitation and recovery expenses
Calculating compensatory damage amounts is relatively easy in most situations, although the calculations can take some time. You'll need to track all bills and costs relating to the incident and repairs needed afterward.
If you're unable to work, calculate average employment or business income for similar times as well as confirmed lost work (such as projects you had to turn down or shifts you could not take).
General Compensatory Damages
Of course, an injury is more than just a medical bill. So, general damages are a category intended to cover all the expenses of your loss that are hard to calculate. Pain and suffering, for instance, are very real consequences of many injuries or traumas, but they are hard to put a financial value to. In addition, possible future expenses are hard to pin down years before they could occur.
When calculating general damages, you may receive financial consideration for incalculable lifelong losses - such as being deprived of companionship through the death of a loved one, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, or emotional distress.
The final category of damages is the kind not actually designed to compensate the victim but rather to punish the responsible party for especially egregious behavior.
For instance, a jury awarded the plaintiff $250 million in punitive damages from the Monsanto corporation because it found that the corporation failed to warn users about its product's dangers. This amount is above and beyond the $33 million award for compensatory damages for his actual injuries.
Such a punitive award is done with the hope that it will not only sufficiently punish individual wrongdoers but also deter others from following their course. It does not require that the plaintiff actually expects to have such a large amount in financial losses.
Understanding how damages actually work will help you and your attorney assign value to your claim - especially when that value is difficult to pin down. This, in turn, makes it possible to decide how to proceed with your case and which damages to pursue.
At Cole Fisher Cole & O'Keefe, we have many years of experience helping injured Californians get what they need and deserve to move on with their lives. If you have suffered an injury and want to sue for damages, call us today. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.