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What kind of compensation can I recover in a personal injury lawsuit?

If you have been injured and believe you have a personal injury claim, you probably want to know the type of compensation you can recover if you pursue a lawsuit. In New York, there are several forms of compensation available to personal injury victims that are referred to as compensatory damages and punitive damages. Almost all injury cases involve compensatory damages in the form of general and special damages, but punitive damages are rare.

A personal injury lawyer can help you review your case and determine the type of compensation you can receive, as well as estimate how much your claim may be worth.

Understanding Compensatory Damages
All personal injury claims involve compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate you for the harm you suffered and make you whole after the other person’s negligence. There are two unique forms of compensatory damages: special and general damages.

Special Damages in
The most common form of personal injury compensation is special damages. These damages are meant to compensate you for the financial or out-of-pocket costs of your accident. There is no limit on the special damages you may receive as they will depend on the expenses related to your case. Special damages can reimburse you for:

  • Loss of future earnings or reduced earning capacity
  • Current and future medical bills
  • Lost earnings
  • Some household expenses, such as hiring a home health aide or making adaptations to your home to accommodate a disability

In most cases, medical bills account for the vast majority of special damages awarded. Your personal injury attorney can help you calculate your special damages and determine whether you will need to turn over a portion of your award to a hospital or medical provider, if your bills were paid before the settlement or a hospital lien was put in place.

General Damages
Many victims are also eligible for general damages, which compensate for the non-economic damages you suffered. These damages may include disfigurement, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

General damages tend to increase based on how long-lasting, painful, disabling, or disfiguring your injuries were. It’s common for insurers to multiply the special damages by a factor of 1.5 to 5 to calculate a starting point for negotiations.

What Are Punitive Damages?
If your case goes before a jury, it’s possible that you will be awarded punitive damages. These damages, which are very uncommon, are designed as a punishment for very malicious behavior on the part of the defendant or when a jury decides that the behavior was so offensive that a message should be sent. Unlike other forms of compensation, punitive damages are not designed to give you back something that was lost in the accident. Only a small number of injury cases result in punitive damages.

Wrongful Death Compensation
Wrongful death claims are basically personal injury cases in which the victim can no longer bring their own claim. In New York, wrongful death cases involve different types of compensation as the claim compensates dependents and family members rather than the individual who was harmed. In a wrongful death claim, family members may recover compensation for:

  • Loss of financial contribution
  • Medical expenses the decedent incurred
  • Emotional distress
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of support and services

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and begin building your claim. A personal injury lawyer can also help you better understand the forms of compensation available in your case.

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