What are Compensatory Damages?

February 21, 2023

When a person sustains an injury caused by another individual or entity, there is a good chance they will be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, exactly what types of compensation are available if an injury claim is successful?

Here, we want to review compensatory damages. These are the types of damages that most people think about when considering an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against another party.

Compensatory Damages Defined

Compensatory damages, and tort law, are also referred to as actual damages, and they are awarded by the court in an amount equivalent to the loss the party suffered.

The total amount of compensation awarded in compensatory damages will be based on the proven harm, injury, or loss suffered by a plaintiff. This does not include punitive damages, which are a separate set of compensation awarded in the event the actions of the defendant are found to be particularly egregious.

There are typically two categories of compensatory damages for a personal injury lawsuit in West Virginia. This includes economic damages, also referred to as special damages, and non-economic damages, also referred to as general damages.

Economic Damages in West Virginia

Economic damages for a personal injury claim revolve around calculable expenses that the injury victims are likely to endure as a result of the incident, their injuries, and the recovery process. By gathering receipts, estimates, bills, and invoices that come in after an injury occurs, a personal injury plaintiff and their attorney can work to adequately calculate the following:

  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Prescription medications and medical devices
  • The cost of any hospital stays
  • Follow-up doctor visits
  • Rehabilitation or physical therapy
  • The cost of modifying vehicles or homes for mobility assistance
  • Lost income if a plaintiff is unable to work
  • Loss of future earnings in case of a disability
  • Various household and out-of-pocket travel costs

Non-Economic Damages in West Virginia

Non-economic damages for a personal injury claim revolve around less calculable expenses than individuals are likely to endure after an injury occurs. Even though these expenses are less calculable, meaning there are no bills or receipts that could be added up, they are equally as important. You may often hear non-economic damages referred to as “pain and suffering damages,” but that does not go in-depth enough to describe their purpose.

Some of the most common types of non-economic compensation individuals receive are for the following:

  • Physical pain and suffering caused by the injury and the recovery process
  • Emotional and psychological distress damages arising as a result of the injury
  • Loss of quality of life damages
  • Loss of consortium damages for a spouse and other family members

Calculating non-economic damages is more challenging and typically involves a multiplier method. An experienced personal injury attorney will calculate the total economic damages for their particular case and then multiply that total by a set number, typically a number ranging from two to five. For example, suppose you have an individual who sustains $200,000 worth of economic losses as a result of a premises liability incident. A multiplier of “three” could be used to reach a non-economic damage request of $600,000. This would mean the total request for compensation would equal $800,000.

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