The Types of Recoverable Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 31 million injuries require medical attention each year in the United States, and about 2 million of those are severe enough to require hospitalization.

Understanding the damages in a personal injury lawsuit is important when you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence. They come in handy when calculating compensation for your personal injury claim.

This blog post will explore this critical topic and explain each type of financial compensation potentially available as part of a personal injury settlement. Whether medical costs or lost wages, understanding how much money may be due after an accident can help individuals understand their rights and when to consult a qualified attorney about filing a successful personal injury claim.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damage aims to restore the injured party financially to a state as close as possible to their condition before the accident.

Within compensatory damages, two main sub-types exist:

Economic Damages

Economic damages, often called special damages, encompass the quantifiable costs directly linked to your accident. These damages are objective and come with specific bills or expenses tied to them.

The following losses fall under economic damages:

  • Medical Treatment: Past, present, and future medical care and treatments associated with the accident are calculated based on doctors’ bills, pharmacy receipts, and other healthcare expenses.
  • Loss of Income: Compensation for lost wages and potential future earnings that the accident victim would have earned if not for the accident, based on their “loss of earning capacity.”
  • Property Damage: Reimbursement for damaged vehicles, clothing, or other personal items due to the accident.
  • Legal Fees: Expenses linked to lawsuit filing, including lawyer fees, travel costs, missed work time, etc.

A dedicated personal injury attorney will compile these expenses into a “specials” sheet for your case, aiding in seeking compensation for the losses incurred.

Non-Economic Damages

On the other hand, non-economic damages, also known as general damages, are subjective and intangible. Unlike economic damages, there are no itemized bills associated with these damages, making it challenging to assign a precise monetary value.

This category includes the following damages:

  • Pain and suffering: Serious discomfort or physical suffering during or immediately after the accident, encompassing any ongoing or future pain attributable to the accident.
  • Emotional distress: Psychological trauma, anxiety, fear, loss of sleep, and other emotional impact caused by the injury.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: Injuries that hinder a victim’s ability to enjoy their daily activities and hobbies.
  • Disability and disfigurement: Visible scars, paralysis, brain damage, etc., with compensation based on the nature, extent, and duration of the injury.

Calculating non-economic losses requires a specific formula, considering factors like the individual’s occupation, preexisting injuries, and lifestyle. Seeking assistance from a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is highly beneficial in such cases.

Punitive Damages

The next type of recoverable damage in a personal injury case is punitive damage. Punitive damages do not apply to all cases. They are sparingly used to penalize the wrongful behavior of the at-fault party. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are neither economic nor noneconomic; their purpose is not compensatory but to deter others from engaging in the same behavior. Punitive damages are only awarded in court cases.

For example, if a car manufacturer ignores a dangerous defect in their vehicle’s gas tank that could cause explosions upon impact, their behavior could be deemed willful, warranting punitive charges.


There are various types of recoverable damages in personal injury cases. It is recommended to enlist the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure that your case has maximum success in obtaining fair compensation.

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