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What Are Special Damages in Personal Injury Law and How Are They Calculated?

Legal terminology can be confusing. However, understanding important terms, such as "special damages," is essential for those who intend to file a personal injury claim. This article will shed some light on the matter and ensure that claimants understand what losses they may obtain compensation for.


Understanding "Damages"

Understanding "Damages"


"Damages" in personal injury law is a broad term used to describe the money that a victim may claim for the losses they suffered as a result of an act of negligence or wrongdoing.


In a personal injury case, the party at fault has committed a tort or caused harm to the plaintiff. This harm is often in the form of injuries and property damage. It also includes the damage to one's reputation or taking away their right to the enjoyment of life.


Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit


There are two types of damages that victims need to be aware of.


Personal Injury Punitive Damages


In some personal injury cases, plaintiffs are awarded punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the defendant for a wrongful act that resulted in the plaintiff's harm. Punitive damages are granted by the court and are not available for all personal injury claims.


Compensatory Damages


The second is compensatory damages. This category of damages aims to compensate the plaintiff for the losses they suffered. These are direct expenses that the victim incurred as a result of the incident and can be broken down into two subcategories:

  • General damages

  • Special damages

What Are Special Damages in Personal Injury Law?


Special or economic damages are quantifiable losses that a victim incurs as a direct result of an accident caused by the actions of someone else. Should the plaintiff require surgery following a serious car crash, for example, their special damages would comprise hospital bills, lost wages for the time they need off work, as well as property damages.


It's important to note here that special damages comprise both present and future damages. If the victim requires ongoing care, the cost of this kind of ongoing care will be added to the personal injury claim.


Types of Special Damages


As described in the example above, there are different kinds of special damages. Some are the result of the injury, such as the cost to run medical tests, perform medical procedures, or for rehabilitation. Others pertain to the property damage caused by the car accident.


This may comprise repairs to the vehicle, the cost of replacing items that cannot be repaired, and the cost of a replacement vehicle while the victim's car is being repaired. A seasoned personal injury lawyer will look at all the possible damages and add them to the plaintiff's claim to ensure that they receive the maximum compensation for their losses.


How to Calculate Special Damages


Calculating special damages is generally straightforward. All a claimant would need to do is add up all their out-of-pocket expenses to arrive at a total. Suppose a person is involved in a truck accident. In that case, the sum of their economic losses may be determined as follows:

  • Medical treatment - $4,000

  • Rehabilitation - $2,000

  • Repair of vehicle - $3,000

  • Cost of a courtesy car - $1,500

  • Lost income - $3,000

  • Other property damage - $1,000

  • Total special damages = $14,500

However, it's important to remember that since future medical care might also need to be factored in, it's important for victims to consult a reliable attorney to obtain sound advice and ensure that they aren't missing out on compensation for critical future care.


Accident victims must remember that to prove special damages, they must present evidence. This will include medical bills as proof of the injuries suffered, a letter from their employer to state that they have been placed on leave without pay, and other pieces of evidence to justify the claim.


What Are Some Examples of Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case?


Here are some of the most common special or economic damages that are included in personal injury lawsuits:

  • Medical expenses

  • Rehabilitation costs

  • Lost wages

  • Property replacement

  • Repair of a damaged vehicle

  • The towing of the wrecked car

  • The cost of an ambulance ride

  • Medical tests

  • Doctor's visits


Examples of Special Damages in a Wrongful Death Case


If the deceased could have filed a personal injury claim before he or she died, their family may bring a wrongful death suit to pursue damages. Typical special damages in such cases include the following:

  • Medical expenses and hospital bills for the treatment of the person's injuries before they died.

  • Loss of benefits (such as a pension fund)

  • Burial and funeral costs

  • Loss of potential future earnings

  • The loss of an inheritance


General Damages or Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Cases


General or non-economic damages, on the other hand, are a lot harder to quantify. These are the non-monetary losses suffered as a result of an act of negligence or wrongdoing. Non-economic damages are subjective and non-tangible, so proving them can be more challenging.


Fortunately, personal injury attorneys in Des Moines IA can help victims determine which general damages they may qualify for. They can also assist with calculating a fair amount for this type of loss, ensuring that the victim is adequately compensated for the trouble that was caused.


Calculating General Damages


As mentioned previously, general damages often require the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to properly quantify, as they are highly subjective and depend on the facts and details of the case. However, claimants can use the formula below to get a sense of the amount they may be eligible for.


General damages = Medical special damages x 1.5


It's important to note here that a factor of 1.5 is used in most cases, but particularly traumatic cases may call for a higher amount, so a personal injury attorney will review the facts to settle on a factor between 1.5 to 5.


What Are Some Examples of General Damages?


Here are some of the non-economic losses that a victim may add to their claim:

  • Pain and suffering (could be physical and/or emotional)

  • Mental anguish

  • Emotional distress (common in wrongful death cases)

  • Reduced quality of life

  • Loss of consortium (this is the loss of the benefits of a marital relationship)

  • Mental health issues (such as PTSD or anxiety)


Pursuing Compensation in a Personal Injury Claim

Pursuing Compensation in a Personal Injury Claim


An accident can lead to serious injuries with significant medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and more. Fortunately, victims can pursue restitution and hold those responsible for their injuries liable for their negligence or wrongful act. Most personal injury claims are complex in nature, which is why calculating damages is often challenging.


An experienced lawyer will know which damages to factor in and how to go about proving that these losses are justified. Attorneys also provide sound legal advice and can help a claimant deal with a difficult insurance company that tries to get them to settle for an unfair amount.


Moreover, lawyers handle the paperwork and conduct thorough investigations into the events that unfolded, helping to uncover vital evidence that can be used to improve the chances of winning a personal injury lawsuit.


Victims are treated with empathy and respect by injury lawyers who battle fiercely for fair compensation. While money cannot give victims back to their pre-accident lives, it can cover their future medical expenses and ensure that they are able to receive vital medical treatment.


The truth is that sometimes personal injuries can lead to wrongful death. The loved ones of someone who passed away because of the negligence of another can obtain justice by filing a wrongful death claim to recover special and general damages.


Time is of the Essence for Personal Injury Claims


According to Iowa Code §614.1(2), claimants have two years from the date of the accident in which to file a personal injury claim. However, the truth is that personal injury cases are often complex, and it is important that victims ensure that they consult an attorney as soon as possible to get the ball rolling.


A personal injury lawyer will require time to consult expert witnesses, obtain crucial evidence, and assess the details of the claim. If the victim fails to provide their personal injury attorney with enough time to prepare a strong case, they could risk their only chance to pursue compensation for their special and general damages.


The clock starts ticking as soon as the accident occurs, so it's important not to waste time but to book a free case evaluation with a reputable lawyer.


Tom Fowler Law Is Here to Help


Special damages are monetary losses that victims suffer as a result of an accident that was not their fault. Although personal injury cases may seem straightforward, they are often complex and require expert legal guidance to ensure a favorable verdict. Tom Fowler Law can also advise on questions such as Do you have to pay taxes on a personal injury settlement in Iowa?


The good news is that victims can turn to a reliable team of personal injury attorneys who will go to war for them with anyone, whether it is another driver and their insurance company or a major corporation that has dealt unfairly with them.


Victims are encouraged to obtain advice at a free consultation with an experienced lawyer at Tom Fowler Law to learn more.

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