Special damages in a personal injury claim are a monetary relief awarded for the out of pocket expenses incurred due to the harmful action of the defendant. Also known as economic damages, special damages cover only tangible harms that can be easily translated into a specific dollar amount. They are calculated according to fair market values at the time of the injury. A common example of special damages is an award for lost wages or medical bills.

They are usually placed in contrast to “general damages”. General damages, or compensation, are awarded for intangible losses that may be difficult to calculate. These may include: loss of reputation, loss of companionship, emotional distress, or pain and suffering. 

Both general and special damages in a personal injury lawsuit are included under the broader category of compensatory damages. These are awards that are intended to compensate the victim, rather than punish the defendant.

What do Special Damages Cover?

Special damages cover losses that can easily be calculated or quantified into dollar amounts. In a personal injury setting, the following types of losses are usually classified under special damages rules:

  • Lost wages or earnings (both past losses and future losses, if they can be calculated)
  • Loss of irreplaceable items
  • Costs associated with the replacement or repair of damaged property
  • Costs that the victim spent in mitigating (lessening) their own liability
  • Costs associated with medical expenses (such as hospital or medication bills)
  • Additional domestic or caretaking costs

In general, relief in a personal injury claim are awarded with the goal of placing the victim in the position that they would have been in if the injury had not taken place. 

In most personal injury claims, the special damages must be clearly stated in a defined amount before trial begins. Thus, calculations involving them are an important step in determining the worth of your personal injury claim.

Are Special Damage Awards the Same in Contract Claims?

You should be aware that the term “special damages” has a very different meaning in contract claims as opposed to personal injury claims. In a contracts lawsuit, special damages cover losses that result from the breach of contract, but are not easy to calculate.

Also, in most contract claims, special damages must be specifically requested, since they cover losses that are not a direct, foreseeable effect of a breach of contract. In contrast, special damages are a routine aspect of most personal injury claims. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Special Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Personal injury lawsuits can sometimes involve complex calculations of the victim’s losses. If you have any issues at all regarding a personal injury claim, you may wish to contact a skilled personal injury lawyer for advice. An experienced attorney can gather evidence of your injuries, identify possible claims, hire experts, interview witnesses, and advocate for you in court.