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Understanding Legal Damages in Personal Injury Cases

On Behalf of | May 4, 2017 | Damages, Personal Injury


Here at Saunders Law Group, we fight hard for clients in and around the Bartow area. When you need the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney, the team at our law firm can offer sound counsel during every phase of the litigation process.

Many clients have questions about legal damages and how they work. Let’s go over some of the basics of damages in personal injury cases.

What Are Damages?

Damages refer to monetary awards that are sought by plaintiffs from defendants in a civil case. These damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for hardships, losses, and other matters related to the accident or incident that they experienced.

Why Are Damages Awarded?

Personal injury lawsuits determine whether or not a defendant is responsible for an injury occurring and legally liable for it. If the defendant is found liable, the defendant will also be held accountable for the injuries and expenses related to the accident/incident. The damages are awarded to a plaintiff as a matter of fairness and justice.

Types of Legal Damages

There are two types of legal damages that may be sought:

  • Compensatory Damages – These kinds of legal damages are intended to cover financial and material losses related to an incident or accident.
  • Punitive Damages – These kinds of legal damages are intended to punish the defendant for their negligence and to deter future incidents of a similar manner.

Let’s go over each of these briefly with examples so the two types of damages are made clear.

An Example of Compensatory Damages

Say that there was an auto accident in which a large commercial truck struck an passenger vehicle, resulting in severe injuries to the person in the passenger vehicle. The accident was caused by the truck driver falling asleep at the wheel because he failed to take the legally required breaks to rest.

In this case, compensatory damages may cover the following:

  • Medical bills from emergency care
  • Vehicle damage
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Lost wages from work
  • Loss of future earning potential from lasting disability
  • Emotional pain and suffering

In a fatal collision, compensatory damages would also be sought to cover funerary costs and the loss of companionship, among other matters related to the loss of a loved one.

How Compensatory Damages Are Calculated

Calculating compensatory damages is relatively straightforward. Bill, receipts, and invoices can be tallied as needed in order to arrive at the total amount being sought. Estimates may also be made based on market value or, in the case of lost future earnings, current wages and future wages based on a likely career and promotion trajectory.

An Example of Punitive Damages

Let’s stick with the example of the truck accident we mentioned above.

Punitive damages in this case would be sought to punish the truck driver and/or his employer for their practices. If the company forced their driver to work for long hours without sleep or proper rest, this could be considered a sign of negligence and a reason why the accident occurred.

How Punitive Damages Are Calculated

Punitive damages do not have a fixed amount based on receipts or services. Instead, they tend to be determined based on the circumstances of a case and damages rewarded in similar cases. The egregiousness of an incident can affect the total amount of punitive damages that are awarded.

Learn More About Legal Damages

If you or someone you love suffered serious harm in an accident, we encourage you to contact an experienced team of personal injury attorneys today. The legal team at Saunders Law Group is here for you to provide counsel and guidance throughout the litigation process.


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