Personal injury and wrongful death claims are valued based on a number of different factors. One of the factors taken into account is the plaintiff’s economic damages sometimes referred to as special damages. Special damages include medical bills, lost earnings and all other monetary losses resulting from the accident. These damages are usually easy to prove because they can be supported with documentation such as medical bills.
In contrast non-economic damages sometimes referred to as general damages are much harder to prove and usually require some degree of legal skill in order to maximize recovery. General damages include physical or emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, disfigurement, loss or impairment of mental or physical capacity and loss of enjoyment of life.
Under what is called tort reform some states have also enacted a cap on the amount of damages that a plaintiff may recover for non-economic damages. This cap originally proposed by President Bush was intended to reduce insurance premiums paid by the general public, but enjoyed little success in that regard. Regardless some states have chosen to adopt such caps, thus it is important to contact an experienced legal professional when dealing with non-economic damages.
In rare cases the court may find the defendant liable for punitive damages. Punitive damages are generally not awarded to compensate for injury, but to punish the actions of the defendant. In most states to get punitive damages the claimant must prove that the underlying injury or event on which the request for exemplary/punitive damages is based results from fraud, malice, or gross negligence (1) or is based on a separate statutory provision that both establishes a cause of action and authorizes the recovery of exemplary/punitive damages (2). When punitive damages are sought in medical malpractice claims, they are most frequently based on allegations of malice and/or gross neglect.
Given the complex nature of personal injury or wrongful death claims it is always a good idea to consult with a qualified legal professional.
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