In legal terms, damages are monetary awards paid to someone to compensate them for their injuries and losses. In a personal injury case, the court typically mandates that the liable party, or defendant, pay the victim, or plaintiff, damages for her financial, physical, and/or emotional losses.

Who is entitled to receive damages?

Pennsylvania law provides that people who have sustained an injury caused by the negligence, carelessness, or malicious conduct of another person, business, or entity are entitled to damages for their harm. The party that caused the harm is responsible for paying the damages, often via his insurance company.

There are various kinds of cases that may entitle someone to damages, such as breach of contract and libel/defamation cases, although the most common of types of cases are tort claims. A “tort” is simply a civil wrong, such as driving a car while intoxicated or failing to lock up your aggressive dog. When someone suffers harm as a result of another’s tortious actions, he can file a tort claim, such as a personal injury claim, as a means to seek damages.

What types of damages can a personal injury victim collect?

There are three types of damages that the court may award to a personal injury victim.

Special damages: Damages that a victim receives to compensate her for her monetary losses are referred to as special damages. These damages reimburse plaintiffs for things such as medical bills, current and future loss of wages, and incidental expenses related to their injuries.

General damages: Like special damages, general damages are a compensatory type of award that reimburses victims for their losses. However, general damages are for the intangible or emotional losses that do not have an inherent dollar value. They compensate victims for their pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other emotional harms.

Punitive damages: Punitive damages are not compensatory in nature, but rather serve as a means to punish the defendant for particularly reckless, malicious, or willful behavior. Courts only award a victim with punitive damages in extenuating cases, and although the victim receives the additional compensation, the ultimate purpose of punitive damages is to penalize the defendant and deter future misconduct.

How are damages calculated in personal injury cases?

Calculating damages is a complex undertaking. The victim’s attorney will start by reviewing the losses and expenses, tallying current and future expenses and loss of income, and assessing the severity and gravity of the injuries. She might have to enlist in the help of a financial expert to help estimate future financial needs. Attorneys, insurers, and courts often use a basic formula to determine the value of general damages.

Once the attorney has collected all the data and determined a fair approximation of the value of the claim, she will send a demand for damages to the appropriate insurance company for approval.

For a free case evaluation and help estimating the value of your personal injury damages, call Berger and Green in Pennsylvania at 412-661-1400 for a free consultation.