What can you recover in a civil lawsuit

Personal injury lawsuits fall under an area of civil law known as tort claims. A tort occurs when one person commits civil misconduct against another, resulting in damages. Some torts like assault and battery are intentional, while personal injury and medical malpractice are negligent.

Negligent torts occur when one party knew or should have known his or her actions could potentially harm someone but failed to take reasonable steps and prevent the injury. In these situations, victims can file personal injury lawsuits to recover compensation and be made whole again under the law.

There are two main types of recovery in lawsuits: compensatory damages and punitive damages. These awards cover a variety of injuries including lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and punishment for the defendant’s egregious behavior. The type of damages recovered in a case depend on a variety of factors including the injuries sustained, recovery time, amount of medical bills, and other factors.

Compensatory damages

Sometimes referred to as actual damages, compensatory damages are monetary awards handed down to plaintiffs as payment for the harm suffered because of someone’s negligence. While no amount of money can undo the injury sustained, the law prescribes compensatory damages as a way for plaintiffs to be made whole again.

Generally, compensatory damages are either pecuniary (monetary) or non-monetary. Pecuniary damages are much easier for courts to quantify since plaintiffs can show documentation for medical bills, pay stubs for lost wages while recovering from injury, and estimates for property damage.

Types of pecuniary damages:

  • Special damages – Compensation for the concrete economic damages suffered by the plaintiff. Special damages include hospital bills, medical treatment, ongoing therapy, and other damages that may come with an invoice
  • Consequential damages – Harm that occurs as a consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Often times, personal injury lawsuits claim future lost income or decreased earning potential as a result of an injury
  • Direct damages – Another term for special damages that occur as a direct result of the defendant’s conduct. Types of direct damages can include medical expenses, lost income while recovering in a hospital, and property damage

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