The definition of damage in law can be simplified as the resolution requested in a personal injury lawsuit to provide legal compensation to the claimant for their losses and experiences related to the personal injury. There are several types of compensatory damages that you should understand when there is an injury claim.

This glossary page explains the meaning of damages in law. It is only for educational and informational purposes. Accessing or reading this page should not be taken as legal advice. If you need advice related to what are damages in law based on your injury claim, schedule a free consultation with Kermani LLP.

Overview of Damages in Legal Context

The plaintiff or claimant of a personal injury lawsuit or claim has the right to request legal compensation to cover their losses. The amount of compensatory damages requested depends on the facts of the case.

As a legal term, damages is both a catch-all term to mean compensation related to all of the expenses incurred by the claimant and it can be further broken down into the types of damages the claimant may be entitled to as part of their legal rights.

Types of Damages

Some of the most well-known types of damages include:

  • Economic damages. Those refer to costs incurred by the claimant because of the personal injury. Examples of economic damage include medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. These damages may be referred to as special damages in some jurisdictions.
  • Non-economic damages. Such damages refer to certain experiences related to the accident, but that cannot have a literal dollar amount assigned. Examples include emotional anguish, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Non-economic damages may be referred to as general damages.
  • Compensatory damages. These are the actual amount of compensation for the claimant.
  • Punitive damages. This type of damage is only available in certain personal injury lawsuits. If a plaintiff is awarded punitive damages, it means that the judge or jury believed the defendant should be financially punished above the costs of the compensatory damages. Therefore, at the end of the trial, an additional financial award is made to the plaintiff.

Role of Damages in Personal Injury Law

To understand the legal damages definition, it is essential that you visualize its role in personal injury law. If you have an injury that impacts you because of another person’s negligence, you would have many unexpected expenses, possibly lost wages, and, of course, your monthly expenses. Would it be fair to you as the victim of a personal injury that came about because of another person’s negligence to have to bear the financial burden of how it impacted you?

So, the role of damages in a personal injury lawsuit is to place the financial burden back where it belongs: on the insurance company and/or the defendant. This is important because the insurance company or other defendant may try to lowball a legal settlement offer or totally deny their part in the accident. A personal injury lawsuit asks the judge or jury to look at the laws on negligence and put the claimant or plaintiff back into the position they were in before they were victimized.

Calculating Damages

Calculating damages for a potential personal injury lawsuit or settlement calculation is done on a case-by-case basis. Factors that may impact the amount of damages a victim may receive include:

  • Lost wages;
  • Disability or death;
  • An injury that will impact the victim or family in the long term;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Disfigurement or scarring.

To maximize your potential settlement calculation or damages, look for a personal injury attorney who has experience handling your claim.

Key Legal Cases Involving Damages

It’s important to note that while this page shares key legal cases involving damages some states have limits on what is paid out.

  • Liebeck vs. McDonald’s Restaurants. You may recall this case even if you don’t know all of the facts. Stella Liebeck was burned in the passenger seat of a vehicle when her McDonald’s coffee spilled on her upper legs and groin area. Ms. Liebeck was awarded over $2.7 million in punitive damages and $200,000 in compensatory damages.
  • Jones, et al. vs. Monsanto Co., Case No. 4:19-CV-00102, US District Court for the Western District of Missouri. Makers of Round-up Weed Killer, including Monsanto and Bayer, entered into a settlement worth more than $1.5 billion.

Consultation with Personal Injury Lawyers

If you have questions about compensatory damages, punitive damages, or what your personal injury lawsuit may be worth, schedule a free consultation with Kermani LLP. Let the experienced personal injury lawyers of Kermani assist you in protecting your legal rights. Schedule now.

Glossary References

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