Home » Practice Areas » Personal Injury Lawyers in California » The Three Different Types of Compensatory Damages Explained

The legal term for the compensation awarded to the injured person in a personal injury case is ‘damages’. As any experienced personal injury lawyer will tell you, there are two broad categories of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Punitive damages are meant to penalize the at-fault party, while compensatory damages are used to help the injured victim.

Compensatory damages are the most common and identifiable type of damage. This type of damage includes property damage, medical malpractice, loss of income, etc.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are awarded to the injured victim to reimburse or compensate for the harm he or she has suffered. These damages are awarded in all kinds of personal injury cases, including auto accidents, mass torts, and slip and fall cases. There are three basic types of compensatory damages: special compensatory damages, general compensatory damages, and wrongful death damages.

Special Compensatory Damages

Special compensatory damages compensate for the monetary expenses incurred as a result of an injury. These damages cover medical bills, loss of past and future earnings, costs of past and future medical care, household expenses, and more. In fact, almost any expense incurred because of the injury can be included in this type of damage. However, it doesn’t mean that the victim will automatically receive all these damages.

Since each individual has his or her own unique circumstances, damages are different for different individuals, depending on the severity of the injury, the circumstances leading to the injury, lost wages/salary, future earning capacity, costs of ongoing and future medical care, and other factors.

While the victim can seek any amount he or she thinks is appropriate, the actual amount is determined by negotiations between the parties involved (usually the victim’s lawyer and the liable party’s insurance adjuster) or by the court in case of a lawsuit.

General Compensatory Damages:

General compensatory damages are awarded to an injured person to compensate for the harms that cannot be measured exactly in monetary terms. They cover pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of consortium or companionship.

How is the monetary value of these calculated? In general, the longer the period of recovery and the stronger the medication prescribed, the greater will be the injured person’s pain and suffering, according to insurance companies. When calculating the monetary value of pain and injuries, the insurance adjusters take in account seriousness of the injury, liability of the victim (when the victim is partially at fault), future prognosis (whether the victim requires extended treatment and therapy) and history of verdicts in similar cases.

Again, the injured person may seek any amount he or she thinks is appropriate, but the actual amount is decided either by negotiations between the parties involved or by the court.

Wrongful Death Damages:

Wrongful death damages are awarded to the surviving family and loved ones of a person killed in an auto accident, slip and fall accident or other accident. These damages cover funeral and burial expenses, emotional distress of surviving family members, loss of financial contribution, loss of services and support, and loss of consortium and companionship. The dollar amount of the damages is determined by taking all these factors into account.

What Are Los Angeles Punitive Damages?

In a personal injury case, punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff by the court if it is determined that the behavior of the defendant was despicable and reprehensible in the moments leading to the injury and immediately after the injury. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the guilty party and not to compensate for the injuries caused to the victim. Punitive damages are less often awarded.

Punitive damages are commonly awarded for wanton and malicious acts on the part of the defendant. The acts may include aggravated battery, fraudulent behavior and sexual assault. The actual dollar amount of the damages is determined by the court. A qualified personal injury lawyer can give you a good idea of how much you can expect to receive.