You have probably come to this website because you have suffered a bodily injury, or because you have lost a close family member that happened because of someone else’s negligence, error, or other wrongdoing. If so, you may have come across the term “damages” and are wondering exactly what that means in a personal injury context.
When you’ve been injured, whether in an accident, an assault, or a hazardous condition in the workplace or elsewhere, all kinds of negatives come into your life. You may be temporarily or permanently disabled and out of work, suffering from physical pain and mental anguish. You probably have piles of medical bills at a time when you’re not able to work, so unless you have better insurance than most of us do, you are probable having trouble paying them. And with the pain, disability, and stress, you may have so little pleasure in your life that you’re beginning to wonder if it’s even worth living. And all this because of something someone else did.
That’s where the legal concept of damages comes in. You have lost so much because of someone else’s error or deliberate wrongdoing, and it’s simply unfair that you and your family have to suffer for something that is not your fault. Texas law is with you there, and the legal system provides you, as an injured party, the right to make the person who caused your losses pay for them. In theory, you need to be made whole again, and your life needs to be put back where it was before the event that caused these losses to your health, finances, and quality of life.
Of course there is no magic wand that can give you back your health of return to life a loved one who has been taken from you. So the law provides you with the next best thing—the opportunity to demand an amount of money that will fairly compensate you for what you’ve lost. This is referred to as “recovering damages.”
There are three kinds of damages that you can potentially recover in a personal injury civil legal matter:
The first two categories—both “compensatory”—are the ones most commonly awarded in personal injury and wrongful death legal cases.
Special damages are economic damages. You’ve been injured; your medical bills need to be paid, both now and in the future. You’ve lost time from work, you need to be compensated for earnings you would have had, but for your injury. You can’t continue with your present career, you’ve lost potential future earnings and benefits that you and your family were counting on. Or perhaps your spouse was killed, and your family lost his or her income and services in the home and now must hire someone to handle those tasks.
Those are the big ones. There are others: prescriptions, medical devices, the cost of refitting your home with a wheelchair ramp or widening doorways, the cost of a lift and perhaps hand controls on your car, the cost of a home health aide to assist with your care, and many others. These are all economic losses. that you can quantify in dollars by showing bills, receipts, employment records, and other documentation. When your case has been resolved, your bank account and your ability to maintain your standard of living should be about the same as before your injury or the wrongful death.
Non-economic or “general” damages are somewhat trickier. These are the losses to your quality of life: pain, suffering, loss of independence, disfigurement, loss of your ability to enjoy life, damage to family relationships, mental anguish, and others. These don’t come with an easy-to-determine price tag, and they vary according to what your life was like prior to your injury. Did you love to play baseball, and your right arm was amputated? Was reading your favorite pastime, and you lost your eyesight? These damages are very real, but they are also subjective.
If justice is to be served, you need to be compensated for these types of damages. They are probably more significant to you than any financial damages.
Finally, in a very few cases, you may be able to receive the third type of damages—punitive or “exemplary” damages. These can be awarded by a jury if the defendant’s act that caused your injury showed wanton recklessness or egregious disregard for the well-being of another. Punitive damages are designed to punish or make an example of the wrongdoer, in hopes of deterring that type of behavior in the future, both from the defendant and from others who realize that things could get really bad for them if they show such blatant disregard for other people.
To get the best possible recovery of damages in your civil personal injury or wrongful death case, you should only proceed with the help of the best Dallas personal injury attorney. Look for a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Specialist who has been certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. That way you’ll know that you are being represented by a lawyer with the highest possible qualifications—one who has been carefully examined and vetted for excellence. Also check the attorney’s AVVO rating. The highest possible score is 10 out of 10. And finally, make sure that your lawyer is experienced and competent in the courtroom.
In Dallas, you can find this high level of representation by contacting the law firm of Aaron Herbert. He has 14 years of legal experience, is Board Certified in Personal Injury Law, and has the highest possible AVVO rating. Call today for a free consultation.