If you have been hurt because of someone else’s wrongful act, and you’ve never been a party to a personal injury lawsuit before, you may be uncertain exactly what type of financial recovery you can expect. Here’s an overview of the different types of damages available in a personal injury action.
Most of the damages available to personal injury victims are what are known as “compensatory” damages, designed to compensate you for some actual or measurable loss. Compensatory damages are further subdivided between economic and non-economic damages:
- Economic damages— These are essentially out-of-pocket expenses, either costs you have incurred or lost opportunities caused by the injury. Examples of economic damages include lost wages and income, unreimbursed medical expenses and damages to personal property.
- Non-economic damages— These are less tangible types of losses, often more difficult to determine—they are usually established through the testimony of an expert witness. Examples of non-economic damages include physical pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, and mental distress.
In limited situations, an injured person may be able to pursue punitive damages. These are not designed to compensate the victim for any loss or injury, but are instead intended to sanction or punish the wrongdoer. They are typically restricted to situations where the defendant’s conduct was egregious or with wanton disrespect for the value of life. Most states, including California, set specific limits on the measure of punitive damages that may be recovered.
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