What Are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In a personal injury lawsuit, money that is recovered by a plaintiff to cover losses sustained as a result of the defendant’s negligent or reckless behavior is referred to as “compensatory damages.” Their legal purpose is to make an injured party whole following an accident. Compensatory damages can provide restitution for past, present, and future medical expenses, lost wages due to the inability to work, property damage, funeral expenses, and more.

The calculation of damages is often a highly-disputed matter in personal injury lawsuits. A New York City personal injury lawyer from Douglas and London can help you pursue maximum compensatory damages in your case and shield you from accepting low-ball offers from the insurance company.

What Losses and Expenses Constitute Compensatory Damages?

In New York State, compensatory damages include both special and general damages. Special damages compensate an accident victim for his or her past and future medical expenses, property losses (e.g., damage to an automobile in a car accident), and lost wages or earning capacity due to injuries.

Special damages are often verified with doctor’s invoices, pay stubs, car repair bills, and similar objective documentation. 

General damages are the result of the accident victim’s subjective responses and reactions to his or her losses and injuries.

A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer will paint a picture of how the accident affected the injured person’s life and well-being. A money value will be attached to the victim’s physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship with family and loved ones.

How Are Compensatory Damages Calculated?

The calculation of special damages is typically based on bills and receipts that demonstrate the victim’s actual losses and expenses.

Personal injury lawyers utilize multiple tools and techniques to calculate damages that are not readily demonstrated by documents:

  • The lawyer might retain an expert witness to testify about future medical expenses that have not yet been incurred but that the accident victim is likely to face as his or her recovery from injuries continues.
  • Testimony from the victim and his or her family and friends will show the differences between the victim’s life before and after the accident to show the effects of pain and suffering.
  • Employment records will show the potential for increases in salary and wages, and how those increases might be reduced as a result of the victim’s inability to work.

Insurance companies that are responsible for paying compensatory damages will frequently use computer algorithms to show a more generic representation of how the accident affected the victim’s life.  The expertise of the accident victim’s attorney and that attorney’s ability to rebut the calculations of generic algorithms will make a significant difference in increasing the victim’s compensatory damages award.

How Are Punitive Damages Different from Compensatory Damages?

The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a wrongdoer who intentionally injured another party or whose conduct was reckless and wholly without regard for the injured party’s health and well-being. Courts are very reluctant to award punitive damages in personal injury lawsuits, and an accident victim that seeks punitive damages will be held to a very high standard of proof.  Because of this, very few personal injury victims will receive a punitive damages award.

What Types of Accidents Lead to Compensatory Damages?

An injured party can recover compensatory damages after many types of accidents, including:

  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Slip-and-fall accidents on another party’s property
  • A dog owner’s failure to control the animal that bites another person
  • A pedestrian injured by falling equipment near a construction site

Are You Entitled to Compensatory Damages?

Please call Douglas and London to consult directly with a personal injury lawyer if you have sustained injuries in a car crash or any other type of accident caused by someone else’s negligence. We will assess your case and help you to understand the full value of the compensatory damages that you may be entitled to pursue.  We represent accident victims throughout New York State. Call today for a free, no-obligation case review.