One of the more potentially confusing concepts you might hear a personal injury attorney use is the idea of special damages. People are sometimes confused because the legal use of the word "special" doesn't align with the modern and relatively positive everyday use of the idea. Take a look at what your lawyer means when they talk about special damages and why they're probably going to be a big deal in your case.
Types of Damages
Most students of the law divide damages into two overarching categories. Compensatory damages represent money that's paid to make things right or to get life back to as normal as possible. The defendant covering your medical bills would be a classic example of compensatory damages. Punitive damages are awarded to discourage bad behavior. They're rarely awarded, except in lawsuits involving defendants who knowingly or recklessly allowed terrible things to happen.
There are then two subsets of compensatory damages. General damages are awarded for hard-to-calculate issues, such as pain and suffering. Special damages are awarded for things that have a clear dollar value attached, such as the bills from surgeries.
Why Are Special Damages Called Special If They're Not?
They are special, just not in the everyday sense of the word. In this case, the term refers to the idea that specific values are tied to specific injuries. For example, your car may need to be repaired or replaced. The repair or replacement costs can be nailed down, and your personal injury attorney will include the related expenses in your claim or lawsuit.
What Can You Claim as Special Damages?
Claimants can seek compensation for a pretty impressive number of things. As previously noted, the medical bills you've incurred during the stabilization and recovery processes are compensable.
You also can claim the value of long-term care needs that stretch into the future, such as in-home nursing, physical therapy, prescriptions, and medical devices. For example, someone who needs an oxygen supply for the rest of their life will be able to seek compensation for both the equipment and the supplied tanks of oxygen. Domestic services, such as meal prep and household cleaning, can also be included if the claimant can't handle those tasks anymore.
The next big item is lost wages. In addition to the value of the work you've lost between the time of your injuries and the present, you can also claim the value of lost long-term earning potential. Be aware this is only measured against the value of your current work. You can't base it on your most valuable skills or the education you were working toward.
Contact a personal injury attorney to learn more.