Damages: Legal Definition

In personal injury law, damages refer to the total monetary compensation a person is entitled to receive, by law, for having suffered bodily, emotional, or financial harm due to the negligence of another party.

Whoever is at fault and determined to be liable for the damage done is responsible for paying the victim for his or her losses.

The Plaintiff in a Personal Injury Action Can Recover Three Types of Damages

The whole point of a personal injury lawsuit is that the plaintiff sustained an injury based on the defendant’s negligence. The injury resulted in the plaintiff suffering from bodily, financial, and emotional damage.

The objective of the personal injury action is recovering damages for the plaintiff’s losses. These damages are not just reimbursements for expenses the plaintiff has already paid, but also account for future losses, including future medical costs, ongoing treatment, diminished enjoyment of life, and diminished future potential earnings, to name a few.

Compensatory (“Actual”) Damages

These damages account mainly for the monetary losses that the plaintiff has experienced, is experiencing, and will experience as the result of the Defendant’s negligence. Plaintiff’s lawyers typically include the following types of compensatory damages in their demand letters or in their legal complaints against the defendant:

  • Doctor’s fees
  • Surgeon’s fees
  • Prescription medications
  • Emergency transportation
  • Hospitalization
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Replacement services (housekeeping, cooking, lawn maintenance, etc.)
  • Property repair/replacement

Some state statutes provide for the awarding of “treble damages,” monetary compensation equal to three times the total compensatory damages.

General Damages

These damages provide the plaintiff with a remedy for less concrete losses he/she has suffered as the result of the defendant’s negligence. Examples of general damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Diminished future potential earnings
  • Ongoing medical care
  • Future medical care
  • Diminished enjoyment of life

Some of these damages warrant further explanation.

Pain and Suffering – can be calculated in several ways, provided the formula used to arrive at the desired amount can be explained to an insurer, judge, and/or jury. A common approach is to take the compensatory damages and multiply the amount by another number (commonly three or four).

Loss of Consortium – refers to the losses a spouse or family experiences related to the benefits of a family relationship. This includes the loss of physical intimacy and sexual relations.

Diminished Future Potential Earnings – is usually calculated with the help of an economist, and they speak to the amount of earnings the plaintiff might have enjoyed in his/her work—or even potential work—had he/she not been injured through the defendant’s negligence.

Punitive Damages

Not commonly awarded, punitive damages reflect compensation to the plaintiff for especially egregious conduct on behalf of the defendant. The plaintiff must meet a very high burden to recover punitive damages.

Every state handles these damages in their own way, with some states even capping how much can be awarded to the plaintiff in punitive damages. If you get punitive damages, expect that they will be much higher than the compensatory damages you receive.

An Arizona Personal Injury Lawyer Will Calculate Your Damages

Zanes Law will do everything from A to Z to help you recover the damages you deserve for the losses you suffered as the result of another party’s negligence.

We will meet with you free of charge to review your case, and once you hire us, you pay nothing unless and until you are compensated. Call our firm today at 866-499-8989.

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