Special vs. General Damages

Special vs. General DamagesIn California, like in many other states, General and Special damages can apply to your personal injury case. If you have become injured at the hands of another party (due to negligence or other factors) you may have already discovered that you are entitled to damages. Now you can find out the difference between the two and how they may apply to your specific case.

What are General Damages?
General damages are non-economic damages. They are for intangible losses, and it may be difficult for the jury to be able to place a dollar value on these types of damages. The types of general damages can include physical pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, physical impairment, mental anguish, loss of companionship (which is paid to family members in wrongful death cases), and lowered quality of life after the accident.

You may wonder how general damages are specifically calculated. The fact of the matter is that they are actually quite difficult to calculate or quantify based on the concept that it must be an amount necessary to compensate the injured person for what they suffered. The process may involve assigning an exact dollar amount to a subjective injury; however, damages like mental anguish will always be specific to each plaintiff. You may wonder, then, how are they successfully calculated without issue? Because these damages can be so unique, special things must be considered – How gruesome was the injury? What is the skill of the attorneys? What are the sensitivities of the jury? Damage awards in similar personal injury cases will almost always vary in some ways.

What are Special Damages?
Special damages are out-of-pocket expenses that are determined by adding together quantifiable financial losses and work to compensate the injured person for losses due to a defendant’s actions. The losses and expenses, however, must be proven specifically for them to count. Special damages can include repair and replacement of damaged property (like in a car accident), lost wages and loss of earning capacity, medical expenses of the past and future, and loss of irreplaceable items.

So how are special damages calculated differently than general damages? Special damages, believe it or not, are actually easier to calculate due to the fact that an exact dollar amount has been spent on the items. You can often decipher how much you will be owed for a damaged product by a defendant based on the fact alone that you know how much you spent on it in the first place. However, situations will vary. For instance, consider a situation in which you need to put a dollar amount on the cost of future medical care of lost earnings – how will you succeed? This can usually be done through the use of an expert witness or other evidence tactics.

California Civil Code sections 3281 and 3282 speak of restoring the plaintiff to nearly as possible to his former position after an accident causes injuries. The damages from an injury are meant to compensate the victim for the injury they have suffered. According to Beeman v. Burling (1990) 216 Cal.App.3d 1586, 1599, if the injured victim has suffered a long-term, debilitating injury, special damages may also include such expenses as costs of nursing care, physical rehabilitation and vocational rehabilitation.

So, Can I Claim General and Special Damages After My Injury?
Ask yourself: Because of my injury, did I have outstanding medical expenses? Did I miss work for a period of time? Then, yes, you can probably seek general and special damages. Speaking with an experienced attorney may be the right direction to turn after you have become injured due to someone else’s negligence. Call Welebir Law located in California to speak to an attorney that you can trust with your case. Schedule a consultation today!


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