Damages in general are classified as compensatory damages and consequential damages. Compensatory damages refer to the direct and logical effects of the negligent conduct.
Compensatory damages pertain to those that arise from the negligent act, although not a direct consequence thereof. An example of compensatory damages or actual damages is bodily harm and car wreckage. Consequential damages include loss of future earnings or unearned income. In any case, both claims must be sufficiently proved by relevant documents. Actual damages proceed from a sense of fairness and natural justice. They are designed to repair the wrong that has been done, to compensate for the injury inflicted and not to impose penalty on the guilty party. In car accidents, actual damages consist of all the natural and probable consequences of the act complained of.
A party injured in a car accident is entitled to adequate compensation for such pecuniary loss actually suffered and duly proved. In personal injury lawsuits, it is a basic rule in that to recover actual damages, the amount of loss must not only be capable of proof but must actually be proven with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof or evidence obtainable of the actual amount involved. Competent documents include medical bills, rental receipts, hospital expenses, and repair costs.
On the other hand, compensatory damages is the indemnity for the failure to receive, as a benefit, that which would have pertained to the injured party. These are granted on the basis of certain facts and figures. There must be a reference to some reasonably definite standard such as market value, established experience or direct inference from known circumstances. It cannot be granted on mere speculation, conjecture or surmise. Where, however, it is reasonably certain that an injury consisting of failure to realize otherwise reasonably expected profits had been incurred, uncertainty as to the precise amount of such unrealized profits will not prevent recovery or the award of damages. The problem would be the ascertainment of the value of such unrealized profits.
Pain and suffering are subsumed under compensatory damages. Although they are difficult to quantify, they are regarded as legitimate claims in car accident cases. The determination of the award based on pain and suffering is largely left to the discretion of the judge and the jury. They decide on the amount based on factual allegations, such as the extent of suffering, the possibility of recurrent pain, or the existence bad faith of the part of the offender.
Moreover, in fixing the amount of such an award, the jury takes a look at the official, economic, social and financial standing of the injured parties on the one hand, and the business and financial position of the offender on the other. Mental suffering is also considered as a compensable wrong. In many jurisdictions, damages are awarded based on serious anxiety, mental anguish, sleepless nights, or wounded feelings. Again, the amount of the award is a factual question. The jury is given great liberty in determining the amount based on their experience and appreciation of the evidence presented. Their decision is respected and will only be reversed or modified if there is a clear showing of abuse of discretion.
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