Calculating Damages

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How do you calculate what someone should pay you for an injury? How do you put a number on seemingly intangible categories such as pain, lost time, inconvenience, embarrassment, etc.? If you have an issue and are considering legal action, there are questions you may need to ask yourself. Whether or not you will use an attorney to represent your case, understanding the value of your claim could be an important piece of knowledge. If you are being compensated financially, this is generally known as damages.

In cases involving personal injury, also known as torts, financial compensation is the usual mode of resolution. Personal injury cases can include car accident, boat accident, medical malpractice, slip and falls, and much more. There are generally two different types of damages in these types of cases. These damages are called Special Damages and General Damages. Special damages calculate actual number damges, most of which you can show bills or receipts for. This includes doctors bills, lost wages, cost of repairing or replacing damaged property. It may even include cost such as gas spent on visiting a doctor, or housecleaning or childcare services required.

However, sustaining an injury can cause a lot more than just financial hardship. Thus, General Damages, seek to account for those seemingly intangible issues which affect lives in non-numerical ways. General Damages can include such issues as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of reputation, and loss of enjoyment of life. Since it is difficult to place a number on these injuries, lawyers and courts will often start with the amount of Special Damages (or just the medical bills) and apply a mathematical equation to help them calculate the amount of General Damages. Depending on the exact facts of the case, fault of the parties, and laws of the jurisdiction, the equation could range anywhere for 2X to 10X the medical bills, or even more.

In cases involving breach of contract, financial damages are also a common method of compensation. In these types of cases involving a breach of contract, damages are usually calculated according to what your financial position would have been had the defendant not breached, or placing you in the financial position you were in before entering into the contract.

Courts often look to the prior cases to determine how they should make a ruling on a current case. So, if you are interested in learning about the value of your case, you may find it useful to view other court records involving scenarios similar to your own. Laws will vary by state and county, so viewing cases within your own jurisdiction may be the most useful. Some courts provide online access to court records, thereby making your search much easier. provides free links to online court records as well as contact information for courts, laws, and more. Is this a great place to start your search.

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