Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case

You have been seriously injured and are thinking about filing a personal injury case, but you do not know what types of damages you may be eligible for. Depending on your injuries and how they happened, there are three different types of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case: compensatory, non-monetary, and punitive. Each category of damages compensates you for different aspects of how the injuries have affected your life.

Compensatory Damages

Hand injury

Compensatory damages are paid by the defendant with the goal of putting you, the victim of an injury, back in the position you were prior to the injury. These damages can include medical expenses, costs of living with an injury or disability resulting from an injury, funeral expenses, lost wages, and the loss of future earning capacity.

Medical expenses are intended to cover bills such as hospital visits, surgeries, testing, therapy, doctor visits, prescription medications, equipment (e.g., wheelchairs, walkers), and ambulance transportation. The costs of living with an injury or disability typically include the cost of future medical expenses resulting from the injury. If your home must be altered for you to continue living in it (e.g., wheelchair ramps, handicap accessible bathroom) then you may also be able to seek compensation for those expenses.

You may be able to recover the wages you have lost if an injury prohibits you from working. If you will never be able to earn the same amount of money again, your lost future earning capacity may be compensated as well. Lost future earning capacity is usually awarded if you can no longer work at all, can no longer work in the same field and must accept work in a lower-paying field, or if the number of hours you can work has been limited by your injury.

Property damage is another form that compensatory damages often take. If your personal property was damaged in the accident that resulted in your injury, then you may be able to seek compensation to repair the property or to replace it at fair market value.

Non-Monetary Damages

commonly misdiagnosed conditions

Damages that cannot be measured in terms of money are referred to as non-monetary damages. One form of non-monetary damages includes physical and mental pain and suffering which may be awarded if you have suffered emotional distress or physical discomfort. Emotional suffering often manifests as depression, loss of sleep, humiliation, and anxiety.

Another category of non-monetary damage is the loss of ability to enjoy life’s pleasures. This may be awarded if you can no longer participate in the same activities you enjoyed before you were injured. Perhaps you used to be an avid rock climber, but can no longer participate in that activity after receiving your injury.

The husband or wife of a victim can seek compensation for loss of consortium, which means losses related to affection and companionship in marriage. For example, if your marriage suffered as a result of the injury then your spouse may be able to collect damages. Additionally, if you suffered permanent scarring or other disfigurement to your face or neck as a result of the injury you may be able to seek general damages.

Punitive Damages

personal injury case

Punitive damages are used to punish the defendant for wrongful conduct that led to your injury rather than compensate you for your injury directly. These types of damages are an attempt to deter others from behaving in a similar manner to the perpetrator. Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant’s conduct leading to the injury is considered outrageous and reckless.

In Pennsylvania, punitive damages are often awarded in cases involving fraud, assault, harassment, kidnapping, false imprisonment, reckless indifference causing harm, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Punitive damages can also be sought in car accident cases where the driver at fault was under the influence, or in dog bite cases where the owner knew their dog was violent yet did not put proper safeguards in place.

Medical malpractice cases may also involve punitive damages. In such cases, the amount of punitive damages depends on factors such as the nature and extent of harm, the financial resources of the health care provider held at fault, and the health care provider’s intent.

Note that there is a limit on punitive damages: in Pennsylvania they are limited to two times the amount of compensatory damages that you are awarded.


Being injured is frightening and can lead to a significant amount of both financial and emotional loss. Fortunately, the law recognizes this and has protections in place for those who have been injured. One form these protections take is the awarding of damages to the injured and, under certain circumstances, leveling punitive damages against a defendant whose behavior has been determined to be reckless. What type and amount of damages you may be eligible for will depend on many different factors related to your personal injury and the circumstances that led to it. In order to know what course of legal action is best for you, you will need the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Donaghue & Labrum Trial Lawyers

If you or someone you care about has been injured due to someone else’s neglect, contact the personal injury lawyers at Donaghue & Labrum right away. With decades of experience in personal injury practice, we know what types of compensation you have the best chance of receiving and will fight to get you the compensation that the law says you deserve.