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After a successful personal injury claim you will be awarded some compensation. General damages are monetary compensation awarded by a court (or agreed by your opponents). These damages are intended to recompense you for your injury, the pain and suffering it caused you, as well as any resulting physical or mental disability. This can also include any restrictions that this may impose on your lifestyle.

Examples of general damages include compensation for

  • being disadvantaged in the job market
  • losses and expenses that you are likely to incur in the future.

Special damages

Special damages compensate for losses and expenses that you have incurred up to the date of the court hearing. For example, the actual losses or expenses that you have incurred, as opposed to the losses that you estimate will occur in the future.
Special damages can include lost earnings, medical and treatment expenses, cost of care and assistance, as well as transport costs.

Some basic principles

Damages are designed to compensate an injured party, rather than better your position before the injury had occurred.
Listed below are the most important principles which the court applies to limit the extent of a party’s liability.

  • You have a duty to mitigate your loss.  This means taking reasonable steps to minimise your losses.  For example, if your injury has prevented you from working you must take reasonable steps to resume your pre accident employment, or to obtain suitable alternate employment as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Damages will generally only be awarded where there is a clear chain of causation; linking the negligent act or breach of statutory duty by the opponent to the loss you have suffered.
  • Most state benefits received as a result of your injury are repayable to the Department of Work and Pensions.  Benefit recoupment is managed by the Compensation Recoveries Unit (CRU).  The CRU issue a certificate of benefits received which the defendant uses to assess the relevant sum to be deducted from your compensation.  General damages are exempt from these recoupment provisions.  When negotiating a settlement the lawyer will often make offers on the basis that it is inclusive or the net of the CRU.
  • If you were partly to blame for the accident your entitlement to compensation may be reduced to take into account the extent of your own culpability.  For example, if a court decides that you were equally to blame for the accident then it is likely to reduce the total amount of your award by as much as half.

Proving your claim for damages

As the claimant you are expected to produce evidence to prove not only the nature and extent of your injury, but also each and every loss for which you seek damages.  It is sensible to work on the assumption that the claim may not settle and will proceed to a hearing, where the strict rules of evidence will apply.
Depending on the nature of the injury it will often be helpful to keep a clear and accurate continuing record, not only of your symptoms and your recovery, but also how this injury affects your day to day life.  The record should also reflect any changes in your circumstances as they occur.
Any loss and expense incurred, as well as voluntary help given by friends and family need to be regularly recorded  along with any receipts and invoices to help prove your claim at a later date.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.