"What are your damages?"
This is among the first questions that any defense lawyer, or a judge, will want you to answer. "Damages" is a term of art in law. The law allows for the recovery of money only for specified things. Those are your "damages." Commonly, personal injury
cases involve argument over not only the amount, by types of damages recoverable under the law. Naturally, that takes legal training and experience. You need a skilled personal injury lawyer
by your side both to assess your damages recoverable and to effectively present your case for compensation.
In a personal injury case, there are two main types of damages typically sought by a plaintiff. "Economic damages" are more-or-less direct monetary losses, both past and future, that you have incurred or expect to incur as a result of someone else's negligence
. Commonly, they involve lost wages, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses (including rehabilitation, if required), and any damage to property. A defendant may not raise as a defense the fact that some of your losses are covered by your insurance.
"Non-economic" damages typically are what people mean when they refer to "pain and suffering." Some people initially are uncomfortable asking for money for such things, fearing it might be unseemly to do so. They shouldn't be reluctant to do so, however. The hard fact is that the only civil remedy the law allows to compensate you for your pain and suffering is the award of money. And the fact that such suffering often is hidden from sight makes it no less real. However, the legislatures of some jurisdictions, such as Kansas and Missouri, have placed "caps" on the amount of non-economic damages a Plaintiff may win in a judgment—despite the fact that the jury may have awarded a much higher amount. Consult an experienced personal injury attorney about how these might affect the amount you may recover.
Sometimes a personal injury of one person greatly affects the lives of that person's intimates, such as a spouse or children who naturally rely on the injured person. Depending on the jurisdiction, such people so affected may bring "derivative" claims against negligent defendants. The loss of companionship, material services, love, affection and even sexual intercourse (collectively, known as "loss of consortium") may be recoverable in such cases. However, it is not necessarily wise to bring such a claim in every case where it may apply. If you believe you or your spouse might be so affected, you should consult a personal injury lawyer to determine whether it is helpful in your particular case.
Punitive or "exemplary" damages are intended to punish a wrongdoer (and others who would be inclined to repeat the wrongful conduct in the future), rather than to compensate the victim of personal injury or medical malpractice
. However, they are not available in every case. Generally, they are not available in the case of "ordinary negligence;" the law requires something more. Nevertheless, if your case involves "willful" or "wanton" misconduct, or the defendant has exhibited an intentional disregard for the rights of others, then punitive damages may form an element of your claim. To make the determination of whether the legal threshold of punitive damages is met in your particular case, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.