If you become involved in a car wreck, you may well suffer injuries, some of which could be catastrophic. When you file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused the crash, you are seeking compensatory damages. If successful in your suit, the judge or jury will award you these damages in an attempt to reimburse you for your expenses and make you as whole as possible. Keep in mind that compensatory damages from a car accident come in two types, general and special.
General Compensatory Damages
General compensatory damages are non-economic in nature and can cover such things as the following:
• The pain and suffering you experienced or will experience in the future as a result of the accident
• The mental and emotional anguish and distress you suffered or will suffer
• Any disfigurement you suffered
• Your loss of consortium with your spouse, children, parents, and/or other family members
• The loss of your enjoyment of life
• The loss of any opportunities you had to forego
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Special Compensatory Damages
Conversely, special compensatory damages represent economic damages that you have already sustained or will sustain in the future:
• Your ambulance and medical bills related to the car crash, both now and in the future
• Any hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility expenses you have already incurred or will incur in the future due to your crash injuries
• Physical or occupational therapy expenses you have already incurred or will incur in the future due to your crash injuries
• Household expenses you have incurred as a result of your injuries or will incur in the future for such things as medical equipment, in-home care, etc.
• Earnings you have already lost and will lose in the future from being injured and unable to work
• Any costs associated with plans you had to alter or trips you had to cancel as a result of your car crash injuries
• Your property damage, such as the damage to your vehicle
• Your legal fees associated with bringing and pursuing your personal injury lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees, court costs, transportation costs, etc.
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Compensatory Damage Caps and Reductions
Depending on the state in which you live, you may be limited by statute as to the amount of compensatory damages you can receive. Your damage award may likewise be diminished if you live in a contributory negligence state where the jury can attribute a percentage of fault to each driver involved in the accident and reduce your damage award accordingly. For instance, should the jury determine that you were 25% responsible for the accident while the person you are suing was 75% responsible, it can reduce any compensatory damage award that it would otherwise have given you by 25%.
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In addition to compensatory damages, you may be entitled to punitive damages. These are damages over and above your compensatory damages that the judge or jury awards to you in situations where the person who caused the accident acted in a particularly egregious manner. Punitive damages often result in cases where the person who caused the accident was driving drunk or impaired or where (s)he otherwise evidenced a reckless disregard for your life.