What Are Special Damages?
In personal injury cases, special damages may be awarded to the injury victim (plaintiff) for financial losses suffered due to the defendant’s actions.
Understanding Special Damages
When an accident results in injuries to another person, liability must be determined based on who is at fault for the accident. If it is determined that another party’s harmful, careless, or negligent actions caused the accident, the injury victim may be awarded special damages, also known as economic damages, to cover his/her tangible out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills and lost income.
Special damages are expenses that can be determined by adding up all of the plaintiff’s quantifiable financial losses. This usually includes the plaintiff’s medical expenses for injuries, lost income for time away from work, and property damages for vehicle repairs. The goal of awarding special damages is to help injury victims get back to the place they would have been if the accident had not occurred.
In injury cases, personal injury attorneys may seek two types of damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. While economic damages are awarded for direct expenses caused by the accident, non-economic damages are awarded for physical pain and suffering, physical disfigurement and disability, emotional distress, and loss of companionship when a death occurs. When a personal injury attorney seeks economic damages (special damages), the attorney must clearly state a defined dollar amount before the court trial begins.
Calculating Special Damages
Unlike non-economic damages that are often difficult to calculate, special damages are easy to calculate because money lost to medical bills, lack of income, and vehicle damages can simply be added up. However, it gets more complicated when calculating losses for future medical bills and future lost wages that are common in long-term physical injures.
To calculate future losses, a personal injury attorney may rely on medical records that indicate a diagnosis and long-term prognosis for recovery, as well as testimony from expert medical witnesses. When a personal injury lawsuit is filed in court, a personal injury attorney will gather all required evidence that is necessary for a successful trial outcome.
In some personal injury cases, the attorney may seek both economic (special damages) and non-economic (general damages). This is often done when the plaintiff’s injuries result in immediate financial losses, as well as long-term pain and suffering that may impact the plaintiff’s lifestyle and livelihood. Many long-term injuries and disabilities result in job loss or job reassignment.