What Are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

When someone files a personal injury claim after a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a slip and fall accident, a dog bite or attack, or any other type of claim, the intention is to seek “compensatory damages,” which help compensate the injured party (plaintiff) for any losses suffered because of the accident and injury.

The purpose of compensatory damages is to help the plaintiff become “whole” again or to restore them to the financial condition they were in before the accident. To illustrate this concept, imagine a man was badly injured in a head-on collision. As a result of the accident, the following occurred:

  • He was in the hospital for 30 days
  • He had to stay home for another month after he was released from the hospital because of his injuries
  • He lost two months’ of income
  • His hospital bill was $150,000
  • His $35,000 car was totaled in the accident and he still owes $25,000 on the auto loan
  • His wife had to take a month of work to care for him at home as he recovered
  • He had to have two follow-up surgeries to repair severe facial scarring after being released from the hospital – these cost thousands of dollars
  • He had to see a therapist because of his emotional pain and suffering
  • He suffered permanent disfigurement and could not go back to his job

We are only scratching the surface when it comes to the financial impact the accident had on this man. As you can see, the losses can add up quickly after a crash, especially if the accident resulted in serious injuries for the plaintiff.

Types of Compensatory Damages

Here are the various types of compensatory damages that are common in personal injury cases:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medical treatment
  • Ambulance bills
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Physical therapy
  • Lost income
  • Property loss
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment (this typically refers to how an injury impacts a relationship
    with one’s spouse, including the loss of the ability to have a sexual

In addition to compensatory losses in a personal injury case, sometimes a plaintiff can seek “punitive damages,” which are awarded in particularly egregious instances or when someone is extremely careless. For example, if a driver were to drive 65 mph in a school zone when school just let out and he struck and seriously injured a child, a jury may award unitive damages to punish the defendant.

Next: Should I See a Doctor After a Car Accident?

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