What Types of Compensation Are Available in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

by Stephanie Andre | Last Updated: September 10, 2020

You were seriously injured in a recent accident. You have medical expenses to pay, and you’re hoping your personal injury lawsuit will help reimburse you. You’ve got other financial losses too, though. There’s the time you’ve missed from work, and the overall pain and suffering you and your family have gone through. Is it possible to receive compensation for those losses as well?

Let’s look at the different types of compensation that are available in a personal injury case.

Two Main Types of Compensation in a Personal Injury Case

In general, there are two areas of compensation in a personal injury case:

  1. Compensatory: These compensate the plaintiff for the harm suffered. They are designed to make the plaintiff “whole” again from a monetary standpoint.
  2. Punitive: These punish the defendant(s) for certain types of despicable behavior, in the hopes of discouraging that behavior from happening again.

Compensatory damages generally make up the majority of personal injury damages and are further divided into three categories:

  1. Special compensatory damages: These compensate the plaintiff for monetary expenses incurred because of the injury.
  2. General compensatory damages: These compensate the plaintiff for non-monetary damages incurred because of the injury.
  3. Wrongful death damages: These compensate the family and loved ones for damages incurred because of the death of a family member or loved one.

Types of Compensatory Damages

If we look more closely at the three categories of compensatory damages, these can be generally broken down again into the following types.

Special Compensatory Damages

These are individual to each plaintiff and may include a wide variety of expenses. Some of the most common damages  include:

  • Medical expenses: All medical expenses related to the injury can be claimed in a personal injury case. These may include expenses for doctor’s visits, hospital visits, surgeries, physical therapy, medications, assistive aids, home medical care, required modifications to the home, and travel expenses.
  • Lost wages: If the injury prevents the plaintiff from working, he or she may claim lost wages. If the injury is likely to keep the plaintiff from working in the future until recovery is reached, again, the plaintiff can request compensation for those lost wages. Plaintiffs can also request losses such as sick and vacation time, bonuses, commissions, vacation time, and other lost benefits. If the injury created a lasting disability, the plaintiff would likely claim the loss of earning capacity.
  • Property loss: If the plaintiff’s property was lost or damaged in the accident, he or she can seek compensation for that. Common properties involved in personal injury claims include vehicles and electronic devices.

General Compensatory Damages

Common non-monetary damages that may apply in a personal injury case include:

  • Pain and suffering: If the accident left the plaintiff suffering from significant pain and discomfort, and/or if the plaintiff expects to suffer ongoing pain, he or she may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress: This may include ongoing fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. Post-traumatic stress syndrome may also qualify. Sometimes this is included in the “pain and suffering” category, but it refers to the mental and emotional impacts of the injury.
  • Loss of enjoyment: If the injury keeps the plaintiff from doing the things he or she enjoyed doing before the accident, these claims may apply.
  • Loss of consortium: This refers to the damage the injury caused to the plaintiff’s relationship with his or her spouse, and may include loss of companionship or inability to maintain a sexual relationship. In some states, the relationship between a parent and child, if significantly damaged, may also qualify for these claims.

Wrongful Death Damages

These damages are paid to surviving family and loved ones. The most common expenses that qualify for compensation include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Cost of pre-death medical care
  • Loss of financial contribution/support
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of services and support
  • Loss of consortium