Compensatory Damages in Auto Accidents
The Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. represent car accident victims seeking compensation for damages sustained due to a car accident. There are many types of damages that can be awarded to compensate a surviving plaintiff for their injuries, or in the case of fatality, the losses incurred by the family members and/or to the estate of the deceased. As injury lawyers, we recognize the financial impact that an auto wreck can have on the victim and their family. For many, at least some peace of mind can come through understanding the various types of compensatory damages available under Illinois law, that a victim may be entitled to recover.
In the overwhelming majority of personal injury actions, compensatory damages are the most common remedy. Compensatory damages, as the term indicates, are intended to ‘compensate’ a victim for the harm caused by the actions of another person or entity. For personal injury purposes, it is helpful to know that the terms ‘harm(s),’ ‘loss(es)’ or ‘damage(s)’ are often used interchangeably with one another. Harm can include injury to an actual body part, financial harm, and even emotional harm. Damages can be awarded for past losses, as well as future losses. Compensatory damages are classified into two main categories—special and general damages, each of which are discussed below.
Special damages refer to actual losses that can be calculated, quantified, or measured. In other words, they are damages that can be easily reduced to an actual dollar amount. Special damages are often referred to as ‘tangible,’ or ‘economic’ damages. Medical bills or loss of earnings, both past and future, are considered special damages, because a specific monetary value can be assigned to each. Special damages also include out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the victim as a result of the accident, such as transportation costs (i.e. rental car reimbursement, mileage to medical providers, etc.), or medication costs (i.e. prescriptions, co-pays, reasonably necessary non-prescription items, etc.), to name a few.
General damages, on the other hand, refer to harm or loss flowing naturally from the defendant’s wrongful actions, but that cannot be quantified or measured in the manner that special damages can. General damages are often referred to as ‘intangible,’ or ‘non-economic damages.’ Psychological, mental, and emotional harm are all considered general damages because these types of losses are specific to an individual, and therefore require further evaluation in order to assign a precise dollar amount. Pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, loss of a normal life, and disfigurement/scarring are all forms of general damages. General damages are typically awarded as an addition to an award for special damages.
Apart from compensatory damages, some personal injury actions also request an award for punitive damages. This type of award is entirely distinct from compensatory damages, because they are intended to punish a wrongdoer, as opposed to compensate the victim. For more on this type of damage award, see our discussion on ‘Punitive Damages.’
Assessing the type and amount damages that a victim may be entitled requires a case-by-case analysis. Generally speaking, special damages are more easily recoverable, and may or may not require expert testimony; special damages almost always require expert testimony; while punitive damages are limited to cases in which the defendant’s actions were intentional, willful/wanton, or fraudulent. An experienced trial attorney can explain your options, and more importantly, ensure that you recover the maximum amount of damages that you deserve.
The Chicago Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. are dedicated to the pursuit of justice on behalf of all victims. If you were injured, or a loved one was killed, as the result of a car accident caused by the negligence of another, it is important to know your legal rights, and take measures to protect them. Call us to discuss your case, at 773-516-4100.