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General Damages: What Are They and Why They Matter

If you’re injured in a car crash, medical malpractice incident, or other life-changing event, you may be able to recover damages from the at-fault party if they were negligent and/or malicious in their actions. Sometimes, however, damages aren’t calculated directly based on things like medical bills and property damage. In certain cases, your damages might be considered general.

What exactly are general damages, how do they work, and when might you receive them? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more, or contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200 or online for a free consultation and so much more!

What Are Damages?

Damages are the monetary compensation a lawsuit plaintiff receives from the defendant or their insurance company. For example, say that you sue an at-fault driver for causing a serious New York City car crash. You suffer severe physical injuries and incur very high medical bills.

Your lawsuit is successful, and the court decides to award you thousands of dollars at the cost of the defendant and their insurance. That monetary award is your damages.

Damages can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the intention behind the decision, as you’ll see below. However, all damages are awarded in tort cases in which a defendant has allegedly committed an act that caused demonstrable harm to another person.

What Are General Damages?

General damages are monetary compensation for losses that don’t have a calculable or specific price tag. For example, if your vehicle was destroyed in a car accident, you (or your lawyers) can likely calculate the value of the vehicle. You’ll then be likely to receive that value as compensation or damages if your lawsuit is successful.

But what about something like intangible harm, such as emotional pain and suffering from learning that you were disabled as the result of a severe car crash? General damages are intended to compensate harm survivors for damages that can’t be easily or at all measured.

Because general damages compensate you for intangible harms, they are sometimes called noneconomic damages.

What Are Examples of General Damages?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be awarded general damages for many different reasons. Examples here may include but are not limited to:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement, such as the permanent scarring of your face or the loss of a limb
  • A physical impairment or disability, like no longer being able to walk
  • Emotional distress, like fear or anguish from the loss of a loved one
  • Mental health conditions or ongoing problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Loss of consortium, also known as the loss of marital benefits (e.g., companionship, family, etc.)
  • Diminished quality of life

The key factor in determining whether an injury qualifies for general damages is whether the harm can be quantified in a dollar amount. As an example, it’s impossible to put a dollar amount on the suffering a person may experience when they are disabled from the waist down.

If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for general damages or some other damages type, it’s a good idea to contact knowledgeable attorneys for your case. Schwartzapfel Lawyers has successfully represented hundreds of New Yorkers just like you and can answer any questions you have, so contact us today at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online!

How Do You Calculate General Damages?

Because of the intangible nature of the injuries associated with them, general damages are difficult to calculate. Courts may take some time to come up with general damages numbers. Remember, general damages don’t come with any receipts, invoices, or other monetary documents. Furthermore, they are often based on how a plaintiff feels when all is said and done.

Because of this, expert witnesses may frequently play a key role in determining whether general damages are awarded in the first place and, if so, what dollar amount will be accompanied by those damages. Here, examples include but are not limited to:

  • An expert medical madness may testify as to the loss of quality of life associated with losing a limb or other physical function
  • A psychiatrist may testify as to the daily pain and suffering a PTSD victim may experience
  • A psychologist or family therapist may testify to the loss of companionship the widow now feels

When Might You Be Awarded General Damages?

You will only be awarded general damages if your injuries are difficult or impossible to calculate but are nonetheless real. 

For instance, no one would deny that PTSD is a mental health condition. It is associated with daily difficulties, pain, and suffering. But there’s no easy way to quantify just how much PTSD costs.

In such cases, you may be awarded general damages to compensate you for your daily difficulties and discomfort. Along with general damages, you may also be awarded compensatory damages to cover expenses associated with therapy costs, doctor bills, medical prescription refills, and beyond.

Other Types of Damages

As mentioned, there are other types of damages you may be awarded in addition to any general damages. To gain a deeper understanding of the subject, we begin as follows:

What Are Special Damages?

Special damages are any monetary awards for injuries incurred because of the negligence of another person or party. These are also called economic damages.

Say that you slip and fall at a restaurant because the restaurant manager did not put up a “Wet Floor” sign. Because of this, you can reasonably say that the restaurant manager is the cause of your resulting injuries.

Any medical bills you incur as a result of that slip and fall accident could then be compensated through special damages. Special damages frequently cover things like:

  • Medical costs (e.g., ambulance transport, surgical procedures, etc.)
  • Property damage expenses (e.g., the cost of replacing a totaled vehicle)
  • Long-term injury-related damages (e.g., the lost income you have to financially deal with because you can no longer work as you once had)

Special damages are much more common than general damages because they are quantifiable and easier to calculate. For instance, if your property is broken in a car accident, the court will calculate the current market value of the property and then compensate you accordingly.

To learn more now at no charge, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online today!

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are damages intended to punish the defendant or at-fault party in a lawsuit for negligence, maliciousness, or other improper behavior. Because this can be very difficult to prove, punitive damages are the rarest type in lawsuit cases. However, they can also result in extra monetary awards being given to the plaintiff.

For example, imagine an instance in which an angry driver deliberately runs into someone else on the road because of road rage. If the plaintiff’s legal team is able to prove that the angry driver caused the accident deliberately, that driver may face punitive damages.

As another example, if a company deliberately and negligently does not provide its employees with safety equipment, and an employee is then injured at the workplace, they could face punitive damages. In both of these cases and more, punitive damages serve as an example to others who may commit the same harm in the future.

Due to the goals of punitive damages, these damages are often very high in monetary amounts. Successful plaintiffs may recover much more money than initially anticipated. But remember, there’s no guarantee you will qualify for punitive damages or that the court will award them at all.

How Much Do General Damages Amount To?

This answer will depend on the details and specifics of your case. General damages can amount to hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars, and will largely depend on the level of harm you can prove to have experienced.

Still, knowledgeable attorneys can help you maximize the amount of financial compensation you receive from an at-fault party or defendant.

With the right law firm on your side, you’ll be able to gather strong evidence, present it convincingly in court, and benefit from experienced advisors who can provide you with sound legal counsel and coach you on what to say and how to testify in court. All of these benefits can be invaluable when you file a lawsuit against any at-fault party.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

You might be awarded general damages if you’re compensated for losses that don’t have specific, measurable price tags. For instance, if you’re compensated for emotional suffering, you might receive general damages to cover you for that loss since it’s not quantifiable.

Even with this explanation, you might still have remaining questions about the nature of general damages and what to expect. Here and elsewhere, the seasoned team at Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help in answering your question and providing stellar legal assistance with your upcoming case.

For a free consultation, case evaluation, and so much more, please visit us online or dial 1-516-342-2200 now! It will be our honor and privilege to fight for you every step of the way.

That said, you shouldn’t wait, as your window to file a claim and recover the money and benefits you are entitled to may soon close forever. To keep that from happening, act now and call Schwartzapfel Lawyers today!

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!


Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You™™

Damages | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute

General damages | Wex | US Law

Special damages | Wex | US Law

What Are Punitive Damages? Purpose, Cap, Calculation, and Example | Investopedia

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