The law entitles any person injured by a wrongdoer what are commonly referred to as compensatory damages. This includes property damage as well as bodily injury. Property damage includes loss of use of the property as well as loss of value (diminution) in the property if it requires repair. Bodily injury damages include the full expense of all medical costs, lost wages incurred from the wrongful act, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering- physical, mental and emotional, damage to credit, etc.
In other words, the law is designed to compensate victims in a manner that places them in the place they were prior to being injured. If a person that is hurt had a pre-existing physical or mental condition that was aggravated or otherwise made worse by an accident or wrongful act, that too is compensable.
Most people have also heard the terms “loss of consortium” and “punitive damages.” These are terms that usually relate to types of damages that are less common but arise out of specific types of injuries or acts causing injuries. A consortium claim is based on the loss or injury to a relationship.
A typical loss of consortium claim is present when an injury is so severe that it affects the injured person’s relationship with a spouse or loved one. A person paralyzed in an accident can no longer play with his or her kids or have sex with a spouse, etc. This type of claim may actually be shared by both parties in the relationship; the victim and the loved one. A wrongful death claim is essentially premised on a loss of consortium claim, as it is the parent, spouse or child of the person that was killed that would bring the claim.
Punitive damages are damages arising from the conduct of the wrongdoer rather than based on the injuries suffered by the victim. They are awarded to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are typically not warranted for negligent (i.e. unintentional) acts or mistakes, such as automobile accidents and are more appropriately afforded to victims who have been assaulted, battered or a victim of fraud or other intentional acts.