What is the Difference between General Damages and Special Damages in a Car Accident Case?

By Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.Auto Accident

shutterstock_228064051If you have been injured in a car accident, you may suffer many kinds of losses – medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of certain functions, even the ability to take part in some of your favorite activities. Even though the losses can take many forms, judges and juries can only compensate them in one way – with a monetary award.

To aid the calculation of a monetary award that an injury victim is entitled to, the types of losses are divided into categories known as general damages and special damages. The Rockland County car accident lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman recognize that understanding the differences between these personal injury award components can take some of the mystery out of a car accident case.

What are special damages?

Special damages are easier to calculate than general damages. Special damages (also known as economic damages or “specials”) represent concrete monetary losses that can be readily measured.

If you have out of pocket costs due to an injury, they may be compensable as special damages. This includes:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Cost to replace damaged property
  • Rehabilitation for injuries
  • Necessary childcare or domestic help costs

Specials are relatively easy to quantify and they must usually be listed and itemized long before the trial.

What are general damages?

General damages (or non-economic damages) represent the losses that are not easy to measure monetarily. They include:

  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Damage to reputation

Since there is no set monetary value assigned to these types of damages, they are often determined by formulas – this is especially true when dealing with insurance companies. One example with which many people are familiar is the multipliers that are often used to calculate pain and suffering. This method starts with the total value of the medical bills and multiplies that amount by a number, which could be anywhere between 1.5 and 5, to arrive at the pain and suffering compensation. The multiplier number depends on factors like the type and severity of injury, progress of recovery, and even trends in the geographic location.

Presenting damages evidence in a car accident case

Even when dealing with economic damages, the amount that is compensable may not be clear-cut. A plaintiff needs to be able to establish that the medical or other bills were necessary and reasonable in relation to the accident. Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys often push back by claiming that the expenses were actually occasioned by a pre-existing condition or exceeded what was necessary to treat the injury.

Understandably, non-economic damages can be even more complicated to prove. Without concrete dollar amounts as validation, these claims can appear rather subjective. Experienced personal injury lawyers understand how to present both general and special damages claims in a way that maximizes their impact in a case.

Accident lawyers in Rockland County, NY and Bergen County New Jersey

If you have been injured in a car accident in New York or New Jersey, don’t guess about what your claim may be worth. The personal injury lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been successfully representing injury victims for more than 30 years. To find out if we can help you, contact our office today for a free consultation.

Additional General and Special Damages Resources:

  1. New Jersey Courts, Model Civil Jury Charges, http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/civil/civindx.html
  2. American Bar Association, Personal Injury: What will I get if I win my case?, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers/injury_wincase.html
  3. DMG.org, Pain And Suffering In Personal Injury Claims, http://www.dmv.org/insurance/pain-and-suffering-in-personal-injury-claims.php
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