What is Your Claim Worth? The Components of a Personal Injury Claim (Part 1 of 3)

A pile of one dollars bills.In every personal injury case, the parties are trying to work out whether or not one party should be held liable for the injuries and losses of the other party. If the other party is found to be at fault for the accident, then the question becomes how the injured party should be made whole. Because you can’t undo the damage that was done, the only viable option is to award monetary compensation to the victim. The amount of compensation that the victim is entitled to receive is referred to as “damages” in the legal context.

If you are injured in an accident and meet with a personal injury attorney, one of the first things your attorney will do is try to estimate the damages that you may be entitled to. A discussion of the components of your claim may be helpful in determining how your attorney calculates this amount.

General vs. Special DamagesThe first thing to understand is the distinction between general damages and special damages.

Special damages are those losses that can be assigned a specific dollar amount. To put it another way, special damages are those you can prove simply by producing a receipt or an invoice. Here are some examples of special damages that are typical in a personal injury case:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Vehicle damage
  • Modifications to home for accessibility and mobility purposes
  • Increased transportation costs

Special damages are the easiest part of your claim to prove provided that you keep copies of all of your bills, receipts, and invoices.

General damages are the opposite of special damages – they cannot be easily reduced to a specific dollar amount. General damages attempt to assign a value to the intangible losses suffered by the victim. Here are some examples of general damages in a personal injury case:

  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of a child or other loved one
  • Loss of future income

In cases of catastrophic or serious injuries, special damages alone may not make the victim whole. General damages are an attempt to compensate the victim for their total loss.

Punitive Damages

Many clients ask about whether they are entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are those damages that are awarded as a punishment, sort of like a fine or a penalty. As a result, punitive damages are usually awarded only in exceptional cases. Under Georgia law, punitive damages are awarded only in the following cases:

  • Willful, wanton, or malicious conduct by the at-fault party
  • Oppression
  • Reckless behavior displaying a willful indifference to the consequences

In addition, there is a higher standard of proof in cases seeking punitive damages as compared to your typical negligence claim. You must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that the defendant’s conduct fell into one of the categories listed above.

What About Attorney’s Fees?

Another common question is whether or not you will be able to sue the other party for your attorney’s fees. Similar to punitive damages, you can sue for your attorney’s fees only in exceptional cases. The most common scenario where you may be able to recover your attorney’s fees is when the insurance company has denied your claim in bad faith or has been unreasonably litigious.

Injured? Contact Slappey & Sadd – Atlanta Personal Injury AttorneysWe’ve been working with accident victims across the state of Georgia since 1992. With dedicated, personalized legal representation, we help our clients get the compensation they deserve. If you’ve been injured and need to talk to an attorney, call Slappey & Sadd at 888-474-9616 or contact us online in order to schedule a free consultation.

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