What Are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
Special damages are a category of damages that can be awarded in civil cases, but what makes up these types of damages varies from case to case.
If you win a personal injury case, the compensation you recover is referred to as “damages.” This is monetary compensation you receive for the harm suffered. These damages can be general, which refers to non-economic damages, or special, which are the economic damages.
This guide aims to answer the question, “What are special damages?” and intends to help you better understand their availability to you in case you win a civil case.
What are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
Special damages and general damages are both types of compensatory damages, which are meant to reimburse the plaintiff for the harm caused by the defendant. However, they are calculated differently.
Special damages are awarded in a personal injury case to cover the exact financial losses that the plaintiff suffered as a result of the actions of the defendant.
For example, suppose you are injured in a car accident and must pay for medical treatment, car repairs, and missed work. In that case, those are special damages because they have a clear monetary value that can be verified with bills, receipts, or pay stubs.
General damages are awarded for the losses you can’t quantify, which are more subjective and difficult to measure.
For example, if you also suffer pain, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life due to the injuries suffered in an accident, those are general damages. They do not have a fixed cost and depend on how the injury affects your well-being and quality of life.
Examples Of Special Damages In A Personal Injury Case
Here are some examples of special damages:
These are one of the most common types of special damages in a personal injury case and refer to the costs of medical treatment that the plaintiff paid or will pay as a result of the injury.
Medical expenses can include:
- Doctor’s fees
- Hospital bills
- Medication costs
- Surgery costs
- Rehabilitation costs
- Physical therapy costs
- Nursing care costs
They aim to reimburse the plaintiff for the financial losses suffered due to the injury, and can be both past and future, depending on the nature and extent of the injury and the expected recovery time.
Lost wages are the earnings the plaintiff could not receive because of the injury and the time spent on recovery.
They can include:
- Salary or hourly wages
- Bonuses or commissions
- Tips or gratuities
- Overtime pay
- Sick leave or vacation time
- Pension or retirement benefits
You can claim past and future lost wages, depending on the nature of your injuries and how long you are off work.
If your property was damaged due to the defendant’s negligence or intentional act, you can claim the costs of repairing or replacing it are another type of special damage.
Property damage can include:
- Vehicle damage
- Clothing damage
- Jewelry damage
- Furniture damage
- Electronic device damage
Property damage can be calculated based on the actual costs or fair market values at the time of the incident. Resources like Kelley Blue Book can determine a vehicle’s fair cost.
The costs of rehabilitation that you pay or will have to pay as a result of the injury can be claimed as special damages.
They can also include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Psychological therapy
- Vocational training
- Assistive devices
Rehabilitation costs can also be claimed for the future, as the aim is to pay you for actual costs that you incur.
Depending on the nature of your injuries, your doctors might recommend future medical care. These can be estimated with specific evidence, such as medical reports and informed opinions.
They can include:
- Future surgeries and therapies
- Future medications
- Future nursing care
- Future home modifications
The purpose of awarding special damages is to ensure that you, as the plaintiff, receive full compensation for any financial losses incurred due to the defendant’s actions. This includes any expenses you have already paid or will need to pay in the future.
Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case
We’ve already seen that special damages aim to reimburse you for the financial losses you incur due to the defendant’s negligent actions. Here are some additional reasons special damages are important in a personal injury case:
- As compensation for financial losses, special damages help to restore you to the financial position you would have been in had the injury not occurred.
- They reflect the economic impact of the injury on your life and affect your ability to support yourself and your dependents. As such, they are often a major component of compensatory damages in a personal injury case.
- Their role in determining overall compensation ensures that you are adequately paid for both economic and non-economic losses caused by the defendant. They can sometimes influence the amount of non-economic damages you may be awarded since those depend on the nature and extent of your injury, among other factors.
What Factors Could Affect Special Damages?
Just because you claim special damages does not mean you will get the amounts you expect. Various factors influence the amount and necessity of your special damages, such as:
- Severity of injuries: With severe and permanent injuries, you will likely incur higher medical expenses and treatment costs. The nature and extent of your injury can also affect your life expectancy, which may influence the calculation of future expenses and earnings.
- Length of recovery period: The time it takes for you to recover fully affects the amount of past and future medical expenses, earnings or earning capacity, past and future care costs, and rehabilitation costs.
- Impact on daily life and earning capacity: Your quality of life pre-injury and post-injury will affect the amount of special damages you can be awarded. If you require rehabilitation or therapy post-injury, your expenses will naturally increase. The impact of the injury on your daily life may reduce your ability to seek employment or require regular assistance, thereby increasing your care needs.
- Testimony and legal representation: You must not only produce evidence to prove your claim, but that evidence must be reliable. The more evidence you can produce to substantiate your claim, the more likely you are to recover damages in full. Experienced personal injury lawyers will not only ensure that your evidence is presented, but they will also make sure it is credible.
How Legal Representation Can Help You With Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case
A lawyer’s duty towards their client is to protect their client’s rights and interests and will ensure you receive fair and adequate compensation for your financial losses in a personal injury case.
Legal representation will help you in various ways, such as:
- Evaluating your case and advising you on the best course of action.
- Gathering and preserving evidence of the defendant’s fault and your damages.
- Calculate the total amount of special damages and other losses you are entitled to.
- Write a persuasive demand letter that outlines your claim and settlement demand.
- Negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf and handling all communication and correspondence.
- Using mediation to resolve the claim if possible.
- Preparing for trial and representing you in court if necessary.
- Enforcing the settlement agreement or court judgment.
Lawyers with experience in personal injury cases will help you overcome any disputes or challenges from the insurance company or defendant. This will ensure a faster and more favorable outcome than if you pursued the claim on your own.
Do You Need Help Obtaining Special Damages For Your Personal Injury Case in Texas?
In this article, we have seen that special damages are a type of compensation that covers specific and measurable losses caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing.
Special damages are the direct, measurable costs associated with an injury, including medical bills or lost wages, and have a concrete value, whereas general damages are more complicated to quantify because they cover intangible losses like pain and suffering.
Both types of damages seek to restore a person injured by another’s actions. Special damages aim to help you recover from your injury’s financial impact and are easier to calculate than general damages (such as pain and suffering).
If someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing has injured you, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help assess your case and seek the compensation you deserve for special damages suffered.
Q: How are special damages different from general damages in a personal injury case?
A: Special damages differ from general damages in that special damages cover the specific and measurable financial losses you suffer. General damages are more subjective and cover non-economic losses you suffer due to personal injury.
Q: What type of expenses are typically covered under special damages in a personal injury case?
A: Expenses such as medical costs, travel costs, property damage, lost income, lost future earning capacity, and legal fees, are covered under special damages in a personal injury case.
Q: What is the role of special damages in determining the overall compensation in a personal injury case?
A: The role of special damages in a personal injury case is to reimburse you for the specific and verifiable losses you incurred. The amount you can recover depends on the expenses and losses you can prove with bills, receipts, records, or other evidence.
Michael S Callahan is an attorney and founder of The Callahan Law Firm. He focuses his practice on representing individuals and families in personal injury cases involving motor vehicle and truck accidents, workplace accidents and defective products. With over 25 years of experience, he is dedicated to fighting on behalf of people whose lives have been forever altered by the negligence and carelessness of corporations and individuals. Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, Michael has been practicing law and fighting for justice for those who need it most since 1994. He is board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a member of various esteemed legal associations. Outside of work, Michael enjoys spending quality time with his family, outdoor activities, and continually striving to improve as a trial lawyer and human being.