3 Main types of personal injury compensation
1. Special compensatory
Special compensatory damages cover the quantifiable financial harms suffered by an accident victim. This category of personal injury compensation often includes expenses such as medical bills, lost earnings (both present and future), expected medical treatments and household expenditures. In order to recover special compensatory damages, plaintiffs must provide detailed proof of their financial losses.
2. General compensatory
Non-monetary injuries are dealt with through general compensatory damages, as any personal injury lawyer in Illinois would note. These injuries commonly include:
- Mental anguish – emotional or mental distress brought on by the accident, such as anxiety, humiliation and grief
- Pain and suffering – physical pain associated with an injury or accident
- Loss of companionship – emotional pain brought on by the death of a loved one
Establishing that these injuries exist and warrant compensation may require the use of expert testimony. A psychiatrist, for example, may be called upon to give a professional opinion of how the accident affected the victim’s mental state.
Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains that negligence compensation may also include punitive damages. This category of compensation is intended as a punishment and is usually reserved only for cases in which defendants engaged in extremely dangerous behavior. The Illinois Compiled Statutes explain that these damages are subject to limitations in all cases except those involving legal malpractice or the healing arts. Under Illinois law, punitive damages may only be awarded if actual damages are also ordered, and the former cannot be more than three times the latter.
Plaintiffs seeking punitive damages must show that the defendant was consciously indifferent to the safety and rights of others, and that the defendant’s actions were recklessly and outrageously indifferent to a very unreasonable risk. Alternatively, the plaintiff may show that the defendant acted with evil motive.
Plaintiffs may claim more than one damage type
It is important to note that these categories of compensation are not mutually exclusive. In most personal injury cases, plaintiffs will claim more than one of them. Because such claims often involve complex proof requirements, people may find it beneficial to speak with a personal injury lawyer in Illinois as soon as possible after an accident. An experienced attorney may help victims or their families gather the evidence they need should they decide to seek compensation for their injuries and losses.