Understanding General and Special Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Understanding General and Special Damages in Personal Injury Cases


Residents of Ohio who are victimized by the negligent actions of others have the right to take action against the perpetrators through the U.S. civil court system. Under the principles of tort law, the victims may seek financial compensation for a number of reasons. However, the compensation will be divided into two different categories and, if awarded, the amount determined in different ways.

In civil court proceedings, damages refer to the amount in compensation being sought. The victim seeking compensation is known as the plaintiff and the party being sued is the defendant. Known legally as general and special, the two categories of damages are essentially noneconomic and economic in nature.

General Damages

This portion of the compensation pertains to the physical or psychological pain associated with an injury. Physical disfigurement and impairment can also be considered when seeking general damages. In cases where the victim is killed or severely incapacitated, family members can seek general damages for the loss of companionship.

The liability of the defendant may in some cases extend beyond the original act of negligence. A motorist who runs a stop light and injures another driver can obviously be held responsible for the physical harm inflicted. If the victim had a particular health condition that worsened the situation, however, the defendant could be liable for the costs beyond those of the original injury.
One shortcoming in assessing general damages is related to the difficulty in determining the dollar value of a life or the mental anguish that has been inflicted. These imprecise factors will often affect the amount in general damages that are awarded.

Special Damages

This portion of the compensation pertains to the actual costs incurred by the plaintiff. The amount needs to be determined with considerable specificity, but the nature of these costs usually make this a relatively easy task.

Special damages are intended to cover the cost of the medical treatment that is received or anticipated, the loss of wages related to an injury and the repair or replacement of property. A determination of the amount needed may require the careful examination of evidence and the testimony of expert witnesses. Additionally, the cost of items deemed as “irreplaceable” may be largely subjective and thus difficult to assess.

Claiming Damages After an Injury

Both general and special damages can be sought in the same case, but there are many factors that need to be considered before filing a lawsuit. Such issues as factual consistencies, the credibility of witnesses and even the likability of the plaintiff may affect the outcome of a case.

A consultation with a personal injury attorney can help guarantee the viability of a case and ensure that the plaintiff receives adequate compensation.

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