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What are General and Special Damages in Personal Injury Cases?

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One of the most frequent questions our legal team get asked by people who are starting the process of bringing a personal injury claim is “what are special damages and how do they differ to general damages?” If you are currently seeking compensation for an injury that you sustained but have some confusion regarding the differences between general and special damages, the following information will help you to understand how damages are awarded in Ireland and how much compensation you might be eligible for.

What are general damages?

General damages is the compensation that is awarded for pain, suffering, and loss of ability to perform certain functions.  Inability to complete certain activities, pursue hobbies, look after family members, or socialise with friends, are all factors that will be considered when awarding general damages. General damages can also be awarded for loss of companionship, which are frequently paid out in fatal accident cases to the family of the deceased.

What are special damages?

Special damages is the compensation that is awarded to cover the financial losses and expenses incurred as the result of an injury caused by a third party, such as a negligent employer or healthcare provider. The aim of special damages is to put the injured claimant back in the financial position that would have been in, had the injury not occurred.

What are the differences between general and special damages?

The main difference between general and special damages is that the former seeks to award the claimant for the direct effects that the injury has had on their life, whilst the latter seeks to award the claimant for out-of-pocket expenses.

What are examples of general damages?

There are many different types of injuries that may be considered when awarding general damages. This includes the following:
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Physical impairment
  • Facial or bodily disfigurement
  • Psychological injury
  • Loss of care or companionship
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Future pain and suffering
The amount of compensation that is awarded for these types of injuries will depend on their severity and impact.

What are examples of special damages?

In the same way that there are many types of injuries that can result in general damages, there are also many types of out-of-pocket expenses that can result in special damages. This includes the following:
  • Loss of wages or earnings
  • Household costs that can no longer be afforded due to the injury
  • Childcare costs that can no longer be afforded due to the injury
  • Medical treatment costs (including past and anticipated future costs)
  • Travel expenses incurred due to the injury
  • Damage to property that also occurred alongside the injury
  • Loss of “one-of-a-kind” items
Compensation awards for special damages are meant to recompensate the claimant for any loss of income or ability to pay expenses and should therefore match those financial values. As such, it is very important to document all the financial impairments experienced following an injury caused by a negligent third party. Once you have calculated your loss of earnings and costs, you can then combine this amount with a forecast of general damages to get an idea of how much compensation you will receive in total.

How is compensation calculated when awarding general damages?

To get an idea of how much compensation you will be awarded in general damages, you should refer to The Judicial Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines. This document outlines the level of damages which may be awarded in respect of varying types of personal injury. Each category of injury is assessed according to severity. So, for example, a severe neck injury resulting in incomplete paraplegia may pay general damages in the region of €150,000-€300,000, whereas a minor neck injury where a substantial recovery is made within six months may pay general damages in the region of €500-€3,000.

How can I be certain if I will be awarded general and special damages?

There is no certainty that you will be awarded general and special damages in a personal injury case. You will first need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that your injury was caused by a negligent third party. You will then need to provide proof of loss of wages, earnings, and ability to pay expenses. If you can successfully prove both things, then your case will result in a compensation award for both general and special damages. The best way to increase your probability of winning your case is to hire a specialist personal injury or medical negligence solicitor.

Have you suffered an injury due to negligence by a third party?

If you have suffered an injury and you are trying to ascertain what level of compensation you might be able to claim for it, our legal team would be happy to assist you with any questions you might have about your case. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email on info@mccarthy.ie and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels. John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.

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