What are Special and General Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

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Damages in California Personal Injury Cases Explained

Damages in California Personal Injury Cases Explained

Jun 7, 2023

Personal injury law encompasses a range of case types, such as car accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and more. When you’re injured due to negligence or carelessness, the value of your personal injury civil claim is typically determined by damages. In personal injury cases, there are two primary types of damages: special and general.

What are Special and General Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Let’s look at what types of damages you may be eligible to recover after a California car accident or dog bite. We’ll also review how to file your claim within the statute of limitations to ensure that you secure justice and the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your personal injury case.

California Civil Code §3281

California law states that:

“Every person who suffers detriment from the unlawful act or omission of another, may recover from the person in fault a compensation therefor in money, which is called damages.”

For the majority of personal injury victims, recovering what are known as “compensatory damages” is typically most important aspect of a civil claim. Compensatory damages are intended to make a plaintiff or victim “whole” in the eyes of the law. In other words, if you’ve suffered a serious injury which has resulted in a number of financial losses, compensatory damages are a means of returning you to the position you were in prior to your car accident, slip and fall, or dog bite.

Additionally, California Civil Code §3333 states that:

“For the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, the measure of damages, except where otherwise expressly provided by this Code, is the amount which will compensate for all the detriment proximately caused thereby, whether it could have been anticipated or not.”

What are the Two Types of Compensatory Damages?

In personal injury law cases, there are two separate types of compensatory damages which may be recoverable for victims:

  • General damages
  • Special damages

General damages are also commonly known as non-economic damages. While often harder to prove than economic damages, having the right personal injury attorney fighting for you can ensure things like pain and suffering or emotional trauma are part of your overall cash settlement.

Some other examples of general damages include:

  • Psychological trauma
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Injury to reputation

The second category of compensatory damages includes economic or special damages. Special damages typically have a specific dollar amount attached for things like:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospital expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Any miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses

When you file a personal injury claim after a car accident, dog bite, or slip and fall incident, your attorney will work to secure the maximum allowable cash settlement based on the general and special damages within your case.

How are Special Damages Calculated?

When it comes to things like medical expenses or hospital bills, you can’t simply submit a claim for an inordinate sum of compensation. Rather, as a plaintiff or victim you must prove:

  • The reasonable cost of any special damages (typically through bills/receipts/etc.)
  • Documentation that the medical care was necessary
  • Documentation that the medical care was received

This is why it’s so important to obtain medical treatment immediately after suffering an injury in a car accident or other type of incident.

In California personal injury cases, plaintiffs are typically entitled to special damages that are both past and future. In other words, your medical care related to a car accident should be covered for any past treatment as well as any required future treatment to ensure that you make a complete recovery.

How are Lost Wages Calculated in California Personal Injury Claims?

In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff can also receive special damages for loss of earnings, loss of future earnings, and inability to pursue career.

The loss of earnings is any wage, commission, bonus, or other financial benefits or fringe benefits which would have been received if you had not been injured. Those who are employed traditionally will have the right to recover any earnings that were lost or will be lost due to their absence from work. Pay stubs and W-2 forms are usually considered sufficient proof to demonstrate lost earnings. The testimony of the injured person, coworkers, or clients can also be used to confirm the documentation.

The above are all included in the loss of future earnings that the injured person would have received if there had not been an injury. Also included are any benefits (including social security) for lost time/years. The goal of recovering special damages should be to return the injured party to the same position as if they had never been injured. It is the same standard as proving future medical costs – that you have to prove that future earnings are reasonably certain despite the injury. As an injured victim, you must prove that the future earnings were reasonably certain to happen. You and your personal injury attorney can do this by demonstrating:

  • How long it will take them to return to their old job or to work in general
  • The amount of money they would have made if they had not been injured

A medical expert can generally testify to the time required to return to a job. The medical expert should be able give an opinion as to how long the injury may prevent the person from returning to work in general, or at the same level they were before the injury.

This analysis takes into account the amount the injured person earned at the time of their injury, the likelihood of promotion, life expectancy, overall economic trends and the economic trends in the profession that the injured party works in.

How Long Do I Have to File a California Personal Injury Claim?

Injuries sustained in California car accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, etc. typically have a two year deadline for filing claims in pursuit of financial compensation. However, it’s strongly recommended that you file your car accident or other type of personal injury case with the experienced team of Los Angeles, California, attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) immediately after your incident has occurred. Doing so will help ensure that your case has the best odds of success in terms of both justice and maximum financial compensation secured.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some public or government entity personal injury claims (e.g. bus accidents, postal service crashes, etc.) are bound to a much shorter statute of limitations – often only six months.

Contact Dordulian Law Group for a Free Personal Injury Consultation

Hiring DLG’s experienced and proven car accident and personal injury lawyers can help ensure that you recover a maximized cash settlement. Research indicates that:

  • When injured claimants have private legal representation, their settlements are 40% higher.
  • When compared with those who represent themselves, the average insurance payout for injured victims is 3.5x higher when they hire private attorneys.
  • The victims who are represented by a private attorney receive 85% of the money that all insurance companies pay for bodily injuries.

DLG’s Glendale, California-based car accident and personal injury attorneys have helped injured victims like you obtain more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts with a consistent 98% winning record.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free and confidential consultation. There’s never any fee until we secure a maximum damages award for your personal injury case. Take the first step toward obtaining the justice you deserve for your car accident or personal injury claim by calling DLG today.

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