Understanding Special and General Damages for Personal Injury Cases


Anyone who becomes injured due to someone else’s fault can sue for various types of damages. Most personal injury cases award special and general damages.

Special Damages

Special or financial damages reimburse injured parties for their monetary losses directly resulting from an injury. These damages typically cover lost wages and medical bills. Still, they may also compensate someone for other injury-related expenses such as cancelation of scheduled activities, special travel accommodations, or assistive devices.  

Special damages awards cover all expenses involving injuries directly due to a defendant’s behavior and actions. Therefore, individuals seeking special damages should retain copies of all receipts showing itemized expenses.

General Damages

Non-monetary or general damages are far more challenging to calculate because they are subjective. Therefore, a plaintiff’s attorney must gather evidence from various sources to prove that an injury is the leading cause of a client’s pain and suffering.

Before damage or injury lawsuits West Des Moines IA go to trial, plaintiffs’ attorneys gather various evidence to support their positions. For example, evidence of pain and suffering may include medical records describing the extent of an injury with a prognosis, copies of medication prescriptions, and treatment plans. 

In addition, an attorney may assemble a list of witnesses whose testimony can provide evidence of the impact of the injury on the plaintiff. Witnesses may include doctors, psychologists, close friends and family. The plaintiff is also a key witness for personal injury cases that go to trial.

The court usually calculates general damages using one of two methods. The first one involves applying a multiplier between one and five, according to the injury’s severity. The value resulting from multiplying the total special damages by this multiplier yields the plaintiff’s general damages.

The other method involves dividing a plaintiff’s most recent salary by the number of days between the accident date and the date of maximum possible recovery according to doctors.

Special and general damages often determine how someone recovers from an injury due to someone else’s behavior.

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