What Types of Damages Are There?

ELI5: Negligence

If you’re wondering what types of damages there are, Moxie Law Group is here to explain. In the most simple terms, damages refer to the cost of your injuries and property damage, and we’re not just talking about the financial cost of those. When lawyers talk about damages, they’re talking about all of the ways a person has been damaged due to another person’s negligence.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are damages that have a set monetary value. Here’s a good example: you were injured in a car accident and you had to go to the emergency room. Your stay in the emergency room alone cost $5,000. So in a personal injury claim, you would have at least $5,000 in damages. Normally, people have more than just the cost of the emergency room–especially if they have to go to the emergency room. Any injury-related expenses that you receive a bill for may be considered to be economic damages. There are also economic damages that you will not receive a bill for, but they have a set monetary value. A good example is lost wages. If you need to take time off of work due to your injury, you may be eligible to be compensated for the loss of income you’ve sustained due to your injury. If you’re out of work for an extended period of time, or you missed out on a promotion because of your injuries, you may also have a claim for lost earning capacity, in addition to lost wages. You can also have a claim for your inability to help around the house the way you did prior to receiving your injuries. You could also have damages associated with future medical treatment, like a surgery recommended by a doctor that you haven’t had yet. Economic damages may be broader than your realize, which is why it’s helpful to discuss them with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are damages that are not able to be quantified by a specific dollar amount. Emotional distress and pain and suffering are both good examples of this. Let’s say that you and your best friend were passengers in a serious car accident. Not only were you seriously injured, you also had to watch your best friend pass away in the accident. The law allows you to be financially compensated for witnessing such an emotionally distressing event, but how could anyone possibly put a dollar amount on such trauma? When it comes to non-economic damages, there’s not always a set formula to calculate the amount of financial compensation the client is entitled to receive. Furthermore, in many cases, the amount of compensation the client receives for such suffering doesn’t adequately compensate them for the emotional distress, or pain and suffering they’ve endured. While this can be difficult to calculate, it’s important you discuss all the ways you’ve suffered as a result of your injuries, so that your attorney can appropriately put on evidence for the jury to evaluate the extent of your damages which are more difficult to quantify.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are designed to punish. These damages are less common in personal injury cases since most incidents were truly accidental, and not caused by extreme negligence.

Normally, punitive damages are awarded when a defendant either willfully causes injury, or acts with reckless disregard to the probability of causing injury. Here’s a good example: let’s say that a company manufactures a cleaner that looks and smells a lot like fruit juice. In fact, it even tastes like fruit juice and comes in a bottle that is remarkably similar to the best-selling fruit juice in the country. However, there’s nothing on the label that warns that this cleaner is toxic. Many children accidentally ingest this cleaner and are fatally injured because of this. The company knows about these untimely deaths, but they continue to manufacture the cleaner without adding safety warnings, or making any changes to the product’s design. In a case like this, punitive damages may be appropriate because the entity that manufactured the product knew there was a hazard, but they continued without making any changes to the product in order to prevent future injuries. Some states may have a statute that limits the amount of punitive damages you, as the individual plaintiff may receive, or that directs some of the funds awarded goes into a state fund.

Nominal Damages

Nominal damages refer to damages that are “in name only.” This one is best explained with an example. Let’s say you own a Lamborghini and you leave it with a valet while you enjoy a nice, romantic dinner at a very fancy restaurant. Now, the valet decides that he’s got time to take your car for a joy ride instead of parking it. The valet didn’t damage your car while joy riding it, and he even replaced the gas he used! However, though actions still weren’t legal, you don’t have any real damages. This is where nominal damages come in. Nominal damages are awarded to show that the plaintiff was indeed wronged, but they didn’t suffer any real damages. These types of damages don’t appear in personal injury cases often because, in personal injury cases, the plaintiffs always have compensatory damages. However, it is possible for the jury to believe you incurred economic damages, like medical expenses, but not believe that you’ve suffered extensively beyond that. In some cases, they may award you the amount of your economic damages, and only award you $1.00 for pain and suffering. This would be considered “nominal damages” as well.

“Why Should I Hire an Attorney?”

You may receive a settlement offer from the insurance company that you think is fair because it pays all of your injury-related expenses. However, you may be entitled to other compensation, or you may be eligible to receive compensation for other expenses that you weren’t aware of. Even if you’re dead set against hiring an attorney, you should still attend the free consultation to ensure that your settlement offer really does compensate you for all the damages you’ve sustained due to the defendant’s negligence. In most cases, a personal injury attorney will be able to get you a better settlement offer than what the insurance company is currently offering you. If you’ve been injured, and you’re ready to get the legal advice you need to make informed decisions, contact Moxie Law Group today for a free case review.

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