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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Burnham

What are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Updated: Jun 27

Bandaged hand after an injury. If you've been hurt, consult a personal injury lawyer.

Going about your day, and suddenly everything changes. Someone is texting on their phone instead of paying attention to the road and causes an accident. You are left with injuries and a whole lot of worry. It's completely overwhelming, and you might feel lost about where to turn or if you'll ever get the help you need.  


Getting hurt in an accident is bad enough, and then the bills and missed work start piling up. It's unfair. If someone else caused your injuries, a personal injury claim could help you get money to cover those costs and give you some breathing room to focus on getting the treatment you need and feeling better.


In any personal injury claim, it is important to know what “damages” are and why they are an important aspect of your claim. 


What are Damages?


Damages in a personal injury case have two important meanings. First, “damages” refer to the actual physical impairment or harm caused to you—for example, the injuries from the accident or damage to your property. 


Second, damages refer to the financial compensation you might receive to help cover those injuries and other hardships caused by the accident. The general policy of Louisiana personal injury law is that the person responsible for causing a harmful accident is also responsible for making you whole.


Types of Damages in Personal Injury Cases


Car accident scene with police officer speaking to driver.

Here are two main categories of "damages" you can pursue if another person's negligence caused your accident: 


Special Damages


These are direct, “economic”, and easily-calculated expenses related to your injury. They include things like your medical expenses, lost wages, and the costs for any property that was damaged as a result of the accident. Special damages are meant to reimburse you for the real out-of-pocket expenses caused by the accident.


General Damages


General Damages are harder to define with a specific monetary value. General damages, also known as “non-economic” damages, cover the less tangible ways your life has been affected by personal injury such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life, and trauma.


A personal injury claim seeks compensation for both special damages and general damages. In some personal injury cases involving extreme negligence or intentional harm, in states where they are permitted, the court may also award punitive damages, which are damages designed to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior.


What are Compensatory Damages?


Compensatory damages are the cornerstone of most personal injury cases. The idea is simple: if someone else's carelessness caused you harm, they should be responsible for making you whole again – or compensating you for your losses. Think of compensatory damages as the "make it right" money. Compensatory damages include both specific and general damages. 


What Damages Can I Seek Compensation for in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?


Here's a breakdown of the different types of personal injury damages you could potentially recover:


  • Medical Expenses: Your medical expenses include everything from those initial ambulance bills and hospital costs to the appointments, medications, and therapy that become part of your new routine.

  • Lost Wages: You could be entitled to compensation for the income you lost while recovering from your injuries. This also applies if your injuries leave you unable to return to your previous job or permanently affect your earning capacity.

  • Property Damages: If your vehicle, belongings, or other property were damaged in the accident, you can seek reimbursement for repairs or costs based on the fair market value.

  • Pain and Suffering: The actual physical and mental pain resulting from your injuries. This includes the emotional trauma and the toll an injury takes on you—the sleepless nights, the frustration, and how your accident changes how you experience the world.

  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: When your injuries prevent you from participating in hobbies, activities, or simply living life the way you did before, this form of general damages can help compensate you for that loss.

  • Other Out-of-pocket Expenses: This can include transportation to medical appointments, prescriptions, splints and braces, and the cost of hiring help around the house that is necessary because of the accident.


In Louisiana, punitive damages (those that are intended to punish and penalize egregious behavior) may also be available in limited circumstances. For example, under. Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.4, punitive damages may be awarded where a driver’s intoxication caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Also, such damages may be awarded in cases involving sexual abuse of a minor (Civil Code Article 2315.7), and in cases where domestic abuse causes the injury (Civil Code Article 2315.8).


Special Damages in Personal Injury Law


Special damages are all about the specific expenses you've incurred because of the accident.


Judge's gavel used in court proceedings.

Who is responsible for paying for special damages? 


The person responsible for causing your accident and your resulting injuries is responsible for paying your special damages. This usually means their insurance company will be the one taking care of them.


Examples of Special Damages in a Personal Injury Case


Special damages, sometimes referred to as “economic” damages, deal with the easily calculable expenses stemming from your accident. Here are some common examples:


  • Medical Expenses

    • Hospital bills and emergency room visits

    • Doctor appointments and specialist consultations

    • Medication and prescriptions

    • Chiropractor bills 

    • Bills for MRI and CT scans 

    • Physical therapy, rehabilitation costs, and ongoing care

    • Medical equipment such as crutches or wheelchairs


  • Lost Wages

    • Your total lost income while you were incapable of working

    • Reduced or loss of earning capacity  if you can no longer return to your previous job at the same level


  • Property Damage

    • Vehicle repair or replacement costs

    • Damage to other personal belongings such as your phone or clothing


  • Out of Pocket Expense

    • Transportation costs to appointments

    • Modifications to your home or vehicle if the injury causes a permanent disability

    • Costs of hiring help for household tasks you can no longer perform


It’s best to keep detailed records of all the expenses related to the accident. This would include receipts, invoices, medical reports, and pay stubs. These things are essential for personal injury attorneys as they build the strongest possible case for your maximum special damages compensation.


Are future expenses considered special damages? 


Yes, future expenses and rehabilitation costs can be considered special damages in a personal injury case.


Future damages are those anticipated costs you'll likely incur as a result of your injuries. 

In a personal injury case, future expenses can be those quantifiable losses with a reasonably predictable monetary value, such as:


  • Future Medical Expenses: If your injuries require ongoing treatment, surgeries, or long-term care, those anticipated costs can be estimated and factored into your special damages claim. 

  • Future Lost Wages: If your injuries permanently impact your ability to work or earn at the same level, the estimated loss of future income can also be included as special damage.


For example, let’s say you were in a car accident and suffered a severe spinal injury.


An old man experiencing neck and back pain.

You'll likely need future surgeries, ongoing physical therapy, prescriptions, and potential modifications to your home to accommodate your injuries, such as wheelchair ramps or widened doorways. These anticipated costs would all be considered special damages within your personal injury case.


How Are Special Damages Calculated?


Special damages are calculated based on concrete evidence of physical injury. This evidence includes: 


  • Medical bills and invoices

  • Pay stubs and income records

  • Receipts for out-of-pocket expenses (transportation, medication, etc.)

  • Repair estimates or replacement cost documentation for property damage


Your personal injury attorney will often work with expert witnesses, such as economists and life care planners, to calculate anticipated future costs.


What Factors Could Affect Special Damages?


The amount of special damages you may be awarded in a personal injury case isn't set in stone.  Several factors can impact the final sum:


  • Severity of Your Injuries: More serious injuries typically result in higher medical expenses and longer recovery times.

  • Cost of Medical Care: The cost of medical treatment can vary depending on where you live and the specific procedures needed. This can impact the overall calculation of your special damages.

  • Your Employment Situation: The type of work you do will also influence whether your injuries caused permanent work limitations, affecting future losses.

  • Strength of Your Evidence: Clear documentation of your expenses and lost income or even expert witnesses are essential for maximizing special damages. Incomplete records can make it harder to prove the full scope of your losses.

  • Your Share of Fault (if any): In states with comparative negligence laws, such as Louisiana, your percentage of fault for the accident could reduce the overall compensation you receive, including special damages.


An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand how these factors might play a role in your personal injury, how they affect your specific case, and fight for the maximum special damages compensation you deserve.


How Special Damages Impact Your Personal Injury Claims?


Special damages are all about making sure you're not left paying for the costs of an injury caused by someone else's negligence. They serve as the primary basis for calculating the financial losses you've incurred as a direct result of the accident.


Unlike general damages, which are mostly subjective, special damages are rooted in documented injuries suffered, expenses, and verifiable losses.


By thoroughly documenting and presenting your special and general damages, your personal injury attorney builds a strong case for obtaining the full financial compensation that you deserve, helping you avoid being left with the long-term consequences of someone else's careless acts.


How an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney can help you with your Personal Injury Claim?


Attorney Taylor Burnham on the move.

If you're also feeling overwhelmed by complicated legal terms like special or general damages, and the insurance claims process as a whole, it’s probably time to consider hiring a personal injury attorney


Here's how the right legal representation can help:


  • You will get answers and clarity regarding your special or general damages claim

  • You will feel less alone. We'll shoulder the legal burden, giving you one less thing to worry about during this stressful time

  • You will receive our personalized attention. Our legal team will treat your case with the care and focus it deserves. You will receive Taylor Burnham’s personal cell phone number, so you will have a direct line to an attorney (not a call center or case manager).

  • No risk, just support. Find out what we can do for you at no up-front cost. We do not recover unless you do. 


Let's Talk About Your Case


Client receives reassuring legal advice from Atty. Taylor Burnham.

We know this can be an overwhelming and stressful time in your life. Let Burnham Law Firm take some of your stress off your plate, and help you to recover all that you deserve.


Contact us today for your free personal injury case evaluation. Experienced personal injury lawyer Taylor Burnham will listen to your story, explain special and general damages clearly, and start fighting for the fair compensation you deserve.


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