Understanding the Compensation You Deserve: Types of Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Most people see Hawaii as paradise, but like most other states, the beauty of these islands isn't immune to devastating vehicle crashes, dog attacks, slip-and-fall accidents, and other types of injury-causing incidents.

That said, you may be entitled to compensation if you were hurt in an accident that wasn't your fault in Hawaii, whether as a resident or a visitor. Damages, or monetary compensation, can be awarded to an aggrieved party under personal injury law (commonly known as "tort" law).

If you were hurt due to another party's carelessness, negligence, or willful misconduct, contact a personal injury lawyer in Honolulu to learn more about your options in the aftermath. In the meantime, read on to familiarize yourself with the different types of damages available before filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.

Main Types of Personal Injury Damages

If you negotiate a successful settlement or win a personal injury claim in court, you can usually secure compensation for your damages or losses.

General and special damages, often known as economic and non-economic damages, are the two most common forms of compensation awarded in legal disputes. That said, general, special, and punitive damages are all potentially available in cases of personal injury.

What Are Economic Damages?

In personal injury lawsuits, economic or compensatory damages are most common and are almost always awarded in successful claims. These cover a victim's financial losses due to an accident, such as medical bills, repairs for property damage, lost earnings, and more. Here are a few common types of economic damages:

  • Medical expenses: Past and future medical and rehabilitation costs may be claimed as part of the plaintiff's damages. The total cost of future care is determined by projecting the patient's expected medical needs going forward based on their current treatment plan as determined by their medical provider.
  • Disability-related expenses: Injuries can cause permanent disabilities that force victims to change their typical routines. For example, a victim may be awarded damages to cover the price of wheelchair-accessible home modifications or the expense of permanent in-home care services.
  • Lost wages: Injured parties are entitled to compensation for their lost income and future earning potential while they recuperate from their injuries.
  • Repair costs: In the event of an accident, the victim may seek compensation for the repair or replacement of damaged property. Property damages are usually determined by current market value.
  • Funerary or burial costs: In cases of wrongful death, a victim’s family can seek coverage for the costs associated with a funeral and burial. Any funerary costs paid as a direct result of a personal injury may be reimbursed to the victim's family.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

By contrast, general damages, also known as non-economic damages, can be challenging to quantify. These are meant to compensate the plaintiff for losses that are more intangible (i.e., damages that aren’t assigned a static dollar amount or value).

Needless to say, it’s challenging to evaluate non-economic damages, and judgments for these monetary losses can vary widely based on the facts of a specific claim. Compensation for non-economic damages consists of the following:

  • Pain and suffering: Compensation for physical and mental trauma is standard when calculating damages for pain and suffering. Emotional distress is characterized as the negative feelings of helplessness, helplessness, dread, rage, and loss of enjoyment of life that come with sustaining a serious injury.
  • Loss of consortium: Spouses and other family members of those who suffer bodily injuries may be entitled to compensation for the emotional losses they have sustained as a result of the accident. For instance, if a victim is injured and can no longer offer the same level of companionship and support as they did before their accident, their loved ones can claim loss of consortium.

How Are Punitive Damages Calculated?

Punitive damages are a third kind of compensation that may be granted to victims of accidents caused by gross negligence. These damages are much less common than general or special damages, but are equally valid in certain cases.

Instead of compensating the victim, punitive damages are meant to penalize the offender for causing the victim's injuries and to discourage similar behavior in the future. In cases when the defendant's behavior was especially egregious, punitive damages may be in order.

However, there is one key caveat to punitive damages: punitive damages are normally capped at fewer than 10 times the amount of compensatory damages by the courts.

Are Damages For Personal Injury Limited?

It’s also important to remember that some states, including Hawaii, cap damages. Non-economic damages are limited in Hawaii, Ohio, and Oregon.

In Hawaii specifically, non-economic damages are capped at $375,000. Pain and suffering awards are capped at the same level as other non-economic damages in Hawaii, but damage awards for trauma and permanent disability or impairment are not limited.

How Do Structured Settlements Work?

Finally, large verdicts for damages in personal injury cases may be settled in a structured settlement if the plaintiff so chooses. An alternative to paying damages in a lump sum, structured settlements spread out payments over time.

In other words, damages awarded in a structured settlement are paid over time, usually monthly or annually. A structured settlement can help victims save money on federal and state income taxes and boost their chances of actually securing their entitled compensation from a defendant.

Contacting a Honolulu Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’re unsure of how to move forward after an injury-causing accident or have questions about your potential claim and damages, it’s essential to contact a personal injury attorney right away.

Lawyers specializing in personal injury claims can conduct client interviews and case evaluations, allowing them to address the fundamental goals of a client's case and use that focus to inform their research. A personal injury attorney's primary responsibility is to ensure their client receives the financial restitution and justice they are due after sustaining damages in an accident. Your chances of receiving the full amount of compensation you truly need to cover all your expenses is much higher when you have a legal representation.

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