There are two main categories of compensation that you can recover in personal injury and medical negligence claims – these are known as general damages and special damages.
A solicitor handling your personal injury case may refer to general damages and special damages during the course of a claim, and should give you a clear explanation of what they mean. Here is an overview of both terms:
Personal injury damages
What are general damages in personal injury claims?
General damages is compensation awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Loss of amenity means the inability to complete activities, either temporarily or permanently, after an accident, which could be undertaken before, e.g. being unable to pursue certain hobbies or socialise with friends.
Putting it simply, this is an award designed to compensate you for the actual injuries suffered, and the effect those have had on your quality of life.
What are special damages in personal injury claims?
Special damages is compensation to cover the financial losses and expenses incurred as a result of an accident or negligent medical treatment. The aim is to put you back in the financial position you would have been in, had the accident or medical negligence not occurred.
If you are unsure whether you can claim for a certain loss or expense, the test is to think – If not for the injury from the accident or treatment, would it have been incurred? If the answer is – No, in principle it is likely to be something you can claim for.
However, an injured person has a duty to take reasonable steps to minimise their losses/expenses. This is called mitigation of losses, and a Court will assess whether or not the loss was reasonably incurred, before making an award.
Common types of financial losses/expenses are:
- Loss of earnings
- Medication and treatment costs
- Travel expenses to include travel to/from medical appointments in relation to your injuries
Another common type of loss, less widely known about, is care and assistance. This can apply in circumstances where an injured person relies on help with everyday household and/or personal care tasks which, without the accident, they would have completed themselves. The help can be provided gratuitously, for example, by a family member or friend, and be included in the claim.