Personal Injury Lawsuits: Types of Compensatory Damages


Compensatory damages are one of several categories of damages that may be awarded in a personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability lawsuit. The aim of compensatory damages, to the degree that they can, is to make a person "whole again", or to restore him or her to the position he or she was in before the injury or accident.

While monetary compensation is obviously a poor substitute for actually making someone “whole again”, it is unfortunately among the few remedies available to the law in order to mitigate the consequences of a wrongful act. Compensatory damages include:

  • Medical expenses – a plaintiff must show that bills and expenses for medical treatment are related to injuries received or medical conditions developed as a result of the negligent behavior in question. The cost of a medical exam for purposes of litigation is not normally recoverable.

  • Future medical expenses – this type of recovery is allowed if the plaintiff can prove that continued medical care as a result of the injury or accident is needed. An expert or experts, such as the treating physician, will need to provide a medical opinion that will allow the jury to make an approximate estimate of the costs.

  • Medical surveillance – compensation to cover the cost involved in monitoring the medical condition of the plaintiff after he or she was exposed to a hazardous substance. The aim is to detect any potential illness or injury early.

  • Permanent disability – although expert medical testimony based on an examination of the plaintiff tends to be the most persuasive, some courts have held that damages may include disabilities subjectively perceived by the plaintiff.

  • Disfigurement – if an injuryor accident leaves scars or other personal effects on personal appearance such as a deformity or disfigurement, the plaintiff may collect damages for the mental suffering that arises out of his or her awareness of such. Disfigurement may sometimes be included as an element of another type of damage, such as mental anguish.

  • Lost wages – compensation for the amount of money the plaintiff would have earned from the time of the injury to when the judgment or settlement was reached. An unemployed plaintiff may recover lost wages if he or she can show what he or she could have earned during the same period.

  • Loss of earning capacity – the plaintiff must show that his or her ability to earn money in the future has been curtailed by the injuries. While past earnings are considered in determining an appropriate amount of compensation, the focus is on what the plaintiff may have earned had it not been for the injury or trauma. Other factors used in determining an appropriate amount include the plaintiff’s talents, experience, skill, occupation, training, age, health, and life expectancy.

  • Household services – a decedent may have been contributing varied non-paid services to the family. The loss of household work that was done by the decedent can be assigned a value by uncovering specific services through a questionnaire and interviews with family members. In other cases, someone may have been hired to perform needed household work while the plaintiff was recuperating from their injury. The cost of these services, provided that it can be shown that they would not have been incurred had the plaintiff not been injured, is sometimes included under medical expenses.

  • Loss of enjoyment of life – a general damage for a diminished ability to enjoy the everyday pleasures of life. In some states, loss of enjoyment of life is considered as a form of pain and suffering.

  • Loss of consortium – either or both the injured and non-injured spouse may make a claim for deprivation of the benefits of married life caused by the injury in question. The couple’s individual life expectancies, the amount of care and companionship bestowed upon the spouse, whether the marriage was stable, and the extent to which these benefits have been lost may be considered in determining the amount of compensation. The benefits of married considered may include affection, comfort, solace, companionship, assistance, society, and sexual relations.

  • Loss of consortium of a child – damages may be recovered by parents whose child’s injuries are severe enough to have significantly affected the parents’ relationship with their child.

  • Loss of companionship – in a wrongful death case, had the decedent lived, the plaintiff, usually an immediate family member, would be enjoying the benefits of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, and closeness. In determining the amount of compensation to be awarded, a jury may consider how harmonious the relationship was between the plaintiff and the decedent, what common interests and activities they had, what their living arrangements were, and if they were separated for extended periods.

  • Pain and suffering – when determining a monetary value to be awarded for past and future physical pain suffered as a consequence of the injury or accident in question, a jury may consider the length and severity of the pain the plaintiff is likely to continue suffering.

  • Mental anguish – any emotional distress, trauma or mental suffering the plaintiff experiences as a result of the injury or accident in question, including fright, apprehension, terror, nervousness, worry, anxiety, humiliation, sense of lost dignity, mortification, embarrassment, shock, and grief.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to another person’s negligence or wrongful conduct, please contact us.  We will help you find a personal injury attorney near you who can help you recover the financial compensation to which you are entitled.