Damages in Different Types of Lawsuits
Damages are awarded to an injured party who suffers harm, loss, or damage as a result of a defendant’s intentional or negligent conduct. The type of lawsuit brought depends upon the nature of the harm, loss, or damage caused, and the type of damages awarded depends upon the type of lawsuit brought.
Personal injury lawsuit
An injured party may bring a personal injury lawsuit when a defendant causes injury to his body or his emotions. For a personal injury suit, the main types of damages that an injured party may recover are for physical pain, mental anguish, loss of time or earnings, impairment of earning capacity, reasonable medical expenses, and loss of consortium, which is loss of companionship of a family member (usually a spouse). States differ as to whether emotional distress damages may be recovered if there was no physical injury.
To calculate the amount of damages that is recoverable, the jury may consider the injured party’s injury or disability, pain and suffering, age and life expectancy, pre-injury health, and the need for future treatment.
Property damage lawsuit
In a property damage action, the recoverable damages depend upon the condition of the property after the harm occurs. If the defendant damages the property, the amount recoverable is the reasonable cost of repair or replacement. If the repair or replacement amount is greater than the property value or if repair is impossible, the difference in market value before and after the damage may be the measure of the recovery. Damages may also be awarded for loss of use of the property. If the defendant destroys the property, the injured party is awarded its value prior to the tort less its present salvage value. Some states also permit recovery for loss of use of destroyed property for a reasonable period between the time of destruction and the time of replacement.
A survival action is normally brought by an injured party’s personal representative after the injured party was harmed by a defendant and died. Recovery generally is limited to losses incurred between the time of the injury and the time of death and usually includes conscious pain and suffering of the injured party, lost earnings, and medical expenses. Some states also allow damages for funeral expenses. Punitive damages may be recoverable if the defendant is alive.
Some states do not limit the damages to the loss incurred from the time of injury to the time of death, but they permit prospective loss to the estate resulting from the death, such as loss of future earnings.
Wrongful death action
In most wrongful death actions, consortium damages may be obtained for the losses sustained by the injured party’s beneficiaries after his death, including loss of support, prospective inheritance, services, society, and companionship. There are several methods that may be used to calculate the damages:
(1) the injured party’s probable gross earnings if he had lived his full life;
(2) the injured party’s probable gross earnings if he had lived, less what probably would have been spent on maintenance; or
(3) the amount the injured party probably would have earned and left as an estate if he had lived
Damages to pay for funeral expenses may be recovered by the estate or the survivors, and most states also allow nominal damages even though actual monetary loss is not shown.