A Word On Damages
We often tell our clients that if we lived in a perfect world, no one would be injured and there would be no need for personal injury attorneys. Of course, in reality, every year, hundreds of thousands of people are seriously injured by the negligence of others, as the result of car accidents, on-the-job mishaps, medical mistakes and defective products. If you or someone you love has had the unfortunate experience of being one of these many injury victims, you know that monetary compensation, needed to pay for medical treatment and reimburse for lost wages, is essential.
In an effort to maximize profits, over the past several decades, insurance companies and big business have been relentless in creating a public misconception that injury victims who recover damages have received a windfall, or somehow have “won the lottery.” They have done so through a well-orchestrated campaign of misinformation that includes made-up stories about make-believe victims receiving damages for slipping in puddles of soft drinks the victims supposedly spilled themselves, or for people who put their hand under a running lawnmower and then sued the manufacturer, and won, claiming they lost a hand because the lawnmower was defective. Despite the obvious absurdity of such myths, by repeating them often enough, these outrageous stories are widely believed by many, and even have gained folklore-like acceptance.
Those who have suffered the devastating effects of a serious injury, however, know first-hand that much-deserved damage awards are a far cry from lottery winnings. To the contrary, even when a serious injury victim or a family who has lost a loved one recovers damages, without exception, every victim would give back all the money if he or she could turn back the hands of time and somehow avoid injury. Unfortunately, that cannot be done, so we are left with a system that allows victims to recover monetary damages from those who have caused their injuries. That is why, at the conclusion of a trial, judges explain to jurors that damages are awarded, as compensation for an injury done. Our system may not be perfect, but it is the best that can be done for those who have been badly hurt.
Generally speaking, there are two types of damages:
- Compensatory damages, which include:
- Special damages. Special damages consist of damages awarded to compensate for economic loss, medical expenses, lost wages and property damage.
- General damages. General damages include monetary awards for pain and suffering, both physical and mental
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages, generally considered to be civil (as opposed to criminal) penalties, are awarded to punish reprehensible conduct, such as drunken driving, and to deter such conduct from occurring in the future.
A finding of mere negligence, or even gross negligence will not support an award of punitive damages. Rather, there must be clear and convincing evidence of intent to cause harm, or a conscious disregard for the well-being of others. Through the imposition of substantial punitive damage awards, manufacturers of unreasonably dangerous products such as flammable baby pajamas, exploding gas tanks, and prescription medications whose dangerous side-effects and risks outweigh their benefit, have learned that product safety cannot be ignored, and placing profits ahead of consumer well-being will not be tolerated.
At Kopelman Sitton Law Group, it is our sincere hope that with the development of safer products, the implementation of improved technologies, and greater public awareness of and attention to safety consciousness, fewer and fewer people will suffer devastating injuries. Where, however, tragedy befalls one of our clients, we strive to maximize the damages recovered, whether through a negotiated settlement or a jury trial. We know victims need and deserve full compensation for their injuries. Someone must stand up and speak for them, and that is exactly what KSLG does, giving injury victims a voice.