If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you may be entitled to compensation for the damage you have suffered. Personal injury cases aim to provide financial relief to victims and help them recover physically, emotionally, and financially. In this blog post, we will explore the various types of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury case. You can also check out this video for a more in-depth analysis of the types of damages available in personal injury cases:
Understanding these types of damages is crucial for evaluating your case’s worth and ensuring you receive fair compensation. Let’s dive in!
1. Economic Damages:
Economic damages, also known as special damages, cover the tangible financial losses incurred because of your injury. These damages are relatively easy to quantify and typically include:
a) Medical Expenses: Compensation for past and future medical bills, including hospitalization, surgeries, medications, therapy, rehabilitation, and necessary medical equipment. In Georgia, trial judges normally provide the following instruction to juries regarding awards for medical bills: In all cases, necessary expenses resulting from the injury are a legitimate item of damages. “As to medical expenses, such as hospital, doctor, and medicine bills, the amount of the damage would be the reasonable value of such expense as was reasonably necessary.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.040
b) Lost Wages: Reimbursement for income lost due to the injury, including missed workdays, reduced work hours, or potential loss of future earning capacity. Just like for medical bills, trial judges in Georgia normally instruct the jury about lost wages:
- “Loss of earnings from the time of the alleged injury to the time of trial is a legal item of damages, and (the amount that may be recovered) (its measure) is the value of the earnings that the evidence shows with reasonable certainty the plaintiff has lost as a result of the injury. You may consider what the plaintiff was making at the time of the injury, what was made since the injury, the amount customarily paid in the locality for the kind of work the plaintiff does, and similar matters. There must be some evidence before you as to the plaintiff’s loss.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.100
- If you find that the plaintiff’s earnings will be permanently (reduced) (destroyed), lost future earnings–just like lost past earnings–are to be determined on the basis of the earnings that the plaintiff will lose, and there must be some evidence before you as to the amount of such earnings. 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.201
c) Property Damage: Compensation for the repair or replacement costs of damaged property, such as a vehicle in a car accident. The amount that should be awarded in the difference between the fair market value of the damaged property immediately before the injury and the fair market value o the damaged item just after the damage. 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.020
d) Other Financial Losses: Compensation for out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury, such as transportation costs, home modifications, or hiring help for daily tasks.
2. Non-Economic Damages:
Non-economic damages, also referred to as general damages, focus on the intangible losses that are more challenging to assign a specific monetary value. These damages are subjective and vary from case to case. Common types of non-economic damages include:
a) Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, discomfort, and emotional distress resulting from the injury. This includes factors like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or loss of enjoyment of life. Georgia judges typically provide the following instructions to juries concerning pain and suffering damages:
- “Pain and suffering is a legal item of damages. The measure is the enlightened conscience of fair and impartial jurors. Questions of whether, how much, and how long the plaintiff has suffered or will suffer are for you to decide. Pain and suffering includes mental suffering, but mental suffering is not a legal item of damage unless there is physical suffering also. In evaluating the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, you may consider the following factors, if proven: interference with normal living; interference with enjoyment of life; loss of capacity to labor and earn money; impairment of bodily health and vigor; fear of extent of injury; shock of impact; actual pain and suffering, past and future; mental anguish, past and future; and the extent to which the plaintiff must limit activities.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.501
- “If you find that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering will continue into the future, you should award damages for such future pain and suffering as you believe the plaintiff will endure. In making such award, your standard should be your enlightened conscience as impartial jurors. You would be entitled to take into consideration the fact that the plaintiff is receiving a present cash award for damages not yet suffered.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.503
b) Emotional Distress: Compensation for psychological trauma, mental anguish, and emotional suffering caused by the accident or injury.
c) Loss of Consortium: This is a category of damages awarded to the spouse for the loss of companionship, affection, or intimate relations resulting from the injury. In Georgia, a married person has a right to recover for the loss of consortium, sometimes called loss of services, of the spouse. The services the law refers to are not only household labor but also society, companionship, affection, and all matters of value arising from marriage. There does not have to be any direct evidence of their value, but the measure of damages is their reasonable value, as determined by the enlightened conscience of impartial jurors taking into consideration the nature of the services and all the circumstances of the case. 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.400
d) Disfigurement or Scarring: Compensation for any visible marks, scars, or permanent disfigurement resulting from the accident or injury.
3. Punitive Damages:
Punitive damages, though less common, may be awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly reckless, intentional, or malicious. These damages aim to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. However, their availability and limits vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case.
In the State of Georgia, punitive damages awards are governed by O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. and are capped at $250,000.00 in most cases. Reid v. Morris, 309 Ga. 230, 234 (2020). Punitive damage awards are not subject to the statutory cap in cases where the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f).
4. Wrongful Death Damages:
In cases where a personal injury results in death, certain damages may be recoverable through a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the laws of the State of Georgia, wrongful death damages should reflect the “full value of the life of the decedent as shown by the evidence.” Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App. 275 (2002).
In a personal injury case, understanding the types of damages you can recover is essential for assessing the potential compensation you may be entitled to. While economic damages cover the tangible financial losses, non-economic damages account for the intangible impact on your quality of life. Punitive damages and wrongful death damages serve specific purposes in cases involving severe misconduct or fatal injuries.
Call Williams Elleby today to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. We will help you navigate the complexities of your case and ensure you receive fair compensation for the damages you have suffered. 833-LEGAL-GA.