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What are special and general damages?

If you make a successful personal injury claim, your compensation payout will include both general damages and special damages. This guide explains the differences between the two.

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What are special damages and general damages?

You may be entitled to claim compensation if you are injured in an accident or develop an illness due to someone else’s fault. Everyday situations that lead to a personal injury claim include slips and trips, road accidents, medical negligence and accidents at work.

If you receive compensation, your settlement will be based on two types of damages. These are known as general and special damages. General damages cover the subjective losses caused by the injury, such as pain and suffering. Special damages are awarded for the financial expenses incurred as a result.

To learn more about the difference between special and general damages, please read on or call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser. If you’d like, you can also use our online claim form to request a call back.

What are special damages?

Special damages are an essential part of your compensation claim. They cover the financial losses you incurred as a direct result of your injury or illness and are also referred to as out-of-pocket expenses. These damages are quantifiable and have a specific value attached to them. They can be based on various types of evidence, either on paper or in digital form, such as receipts, invoices, pay slips and bank statements.

There is no limit to the amount you could claim for special damages, as long as they are reasonable and supported by proof. They cover both past and future financial losses and expenses related to your injury. Examples of special damages include:

  • Loss of earnings you sustained by taking time off work to recover, including missed promotions and bonuses;
  • Loss of or reduced earning capacity if you suffered a permanent disability;
  • Short-term medical expenses, such as hospital charges, consultation fees and diagnostic tests;
  • Long-term medical expenses for prescriptions, physical therapy, medical aids and other ongoing medical treatments;
  • Travel expenses to and from the hospital, whether you go by car, taxi, bus or train;
  • The cost of repairing or replacing damaged property like your car, phone or clothes;
  • The care costs associated with the time someone else has spent to look after yourself, even if it was a friend or family member;
  • Cost of additional care and assistance while you are recovering, such as childcare and property maintenance;
  • Adaptations to your home or vehicle to assist you with a disability;
  • Loss of irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind items destroyed or damaged in the accident.

A personal injury solicitor will be able to work out the amount of compensation you may be able to claim and gather the necessary proof to support it.

What are general damages?

General damages refer to the compensation awarded for the non-monetary losses you incurred as a result of the injury. They cover the physical and psychological effects of your condition and any changes in your daily life (known as loss of amenity). General damages are subjective and do not have an exact monetary value attached to them, so their calculation is more complicated.

Types of general damages in personal injury compensation often include:

  • The physical pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the accident, both present and future;
  • Emotional and mental pain and anguish, such as stress, depression and anxiety;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life due to reduced ability to engage in and enjoy certain activities;
  • The loss of companionship, support, and intimacy due to the injury;
  • Visible scars, disfigurement and other physical alterations that affect your appearance;
  • Reduced quality of life due to ongoing pain, distress and inability to engage in hobbies and leisure activities you used to enjoy;
  • Physical or mental impairment or disability that interferes with your ability to do everyday tasks.

An experienced personal injury solicitor will be able to claim compensation for all the ways in which your injury has affected your life.

Can I claim damages following a personal injury?

If you have suffered an injury or illness due to someone else’s negligence,  you may be able to make a claim for compensation. The general and special damages included in your claim aim to put you back in the position you were in before the accident. However, you must be able to prove the following to have a valid personal injury case:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care
  • They breached this duty by acting negligently
  • Their actions caused an accident to occur
  • You suffered an injury or illness as a result within the past three years

Keep in mind that you may still be able to make a claim even if you were partially at fault for your injury. However, you will receive a reduced damages compensation to reflect your part of the blame.

Some of the most common situations that lead to a personal injury compensation claim include:

  • Road accidents involving cars, bicycles or motorbikes that often result in injuries to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, or cyclists;
  • Slips, trips, and falls can occur on poorly maintained premises, pavements, or public places, such as shops and restaurants;
  • Workplace injuries due to unsafe working conditions, lack of proper training, or faulty equipment and machinery;
  • Medical negligence, such as surgical mistakes, misdiagnosis or prescription errors, can cause avoidable and devastating injuries to patients;
  • Accidents caused by defective or dangerous products, including design flaws, manufacturing defects, or insufficient warnings;
  • Assaults and violence may occur in various settings, such as public spaces, workplaces, or domestic situations;
  • Injuries caused by dog attacks or bites, often resulting from an owner’s failure to control or restrain their pet;
  • Accidents can also occur during sports activities due to negligence, lack of proper supervision, or unsafe ground conditions.

If you can show that another party is liable for your accident, you can claim for general and special damages following any injury, including:

Your solicitor will be able to prove a duty of care by referring to the relevant legislation, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, for workplace injuries. They will help you gather all the necessary evidence to support your case and guide you through all the steps of the personal injury claims process.

What’s the difference between general and special damages?

The main difference between general damages and special damages in a personal injury claim lies in the types of losses they aim to compensate and how they are quantified.

General damages address the direct effects of the injury or illness you suffered on your life. These include compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenities and are challenging to calculate precisely. They are based on the type and severity of your condition and the compensation guidelines published by the Judicial College.

Special damages address the specific and quantifiable financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a direct result of the injury. They are easier to calculate because they have a monetary value associated with each item. Special damages are based on evidence like medical bills, receipts, pay slips and invoices.

To learn more about the difference between general and special damages or to start a claim, call us on 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.

How are damages calculated?

Special damages for past financial losses and expenses are easy to calculate, as each item has a monetary value attached to it. Some of the most common examples of special damages included in a claim are:

  • Travel expenses to and from doctors, specialists and physical therapy – these are typically calculated based on receipts;
  • Diagnostic tests, private medical care and prescriptions – are calculated based on medical bills and invoices;
  • Lost wages are calculated based on your hourly or weekly pay – your solicitor will use pay slips, tax records, or other evidence of income both before and after the injury;
  • Care and assistance with daily living – are typically based on invoices;
  • Repairing or replacing damaged property – will be calculated based on estimates, invoices, or receipts.

On the other hand, calculating expected and potential future economic losses can be complicated. In case of severe injuries or illness, their value can be significant and reflect the long-term changes caused to your life. Some of the most common issues considered include:

  • Long-term medical treatment and physical therapy;
  • Ongoing care and assistance;
  • Specialist equipment, such as wheelchairs, walking aids, hearing aids and prosthetics;
  • Loss of or reduced earning capacity, the compensation for which will depend on factors like your age, work experience, occupation and possible promotions.

General damages do not have an exact value attached to them and are often difficult to calculate. Damages like pain, suffering and mental anguish are unique to each claimant. Expert witnesses typically play an essential role in determining the impact of the injury on your physical and psychological well-being. For example:

  • A psychiatrist or psychologist might testify to your mental and emotional suffering and distress;
  • A medical specialist will testify on the effect of your injuries on your ability to work and carry out daily activities;
  • A pain management expert can attest to your level of physical pain and suffering.

The award for general damages is based on historical cases and recommendations from the Judicial College and could range from a few hundred to more than £400,000. Please refer to our online compensation calculator to see how much you could receive based on the type and severity of your injury.

Time limits to start a personal injury claim

If you were injured as a result of an accident that was someone else’s fault, you typically have three years to start a claim under the Limitation Act 1980. This time limit is, however, subject to a few exceptions:

  • If the injured party lacks mental capacity, there is no time limit to claim. A litigation friend could recover damages for them at any time.
  • For children, there is no three-year time limit. The time starts to run once they turn 18, from which they could seek compensation until their 21st birthday.
  • If you were the victim of a criminal assault, you have two years to claim damages through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
  • You have seven years to claim compensation through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) if you were injured during military service.
  • You can also pursue a personal injury claim if you had an accident abroad, but the time limit could vary significantly between countries.

As a general rule, you should speak to a personal injury expert as soon as possible. They may need at least 2-3 months to gather evidence and prepare your case. If you do not start legal proceedings within the specified time limits, your claim becomes statute-barred, and the court will no longer accept it.

Can I claim damages on a No Win No Fee basis?

If you have grounds to make a personal injury claim, your solicitor will help you seek special and general damages on a no win no fee basis. This arrangement means you do not have to pay them a single penny upfront for legal representation. Furthermore, if your case fails, you do not have to pay them anything at all.

Your solicitor will only receive a percentage of your compensation, known as a success fee, if they win your case. This fee cannot exceed 25% of your award for past financial losses and general damages, and you will agree to it from the beginning.

The After the Event (ATE) insurance policy included in your agreement will ensure you do not have to cover any legal fees or disbursements either. If your case fails, the ATE will pay all the litigation costs, such as medical reports, court fees, expert witness fees and the defendant’s solicitors. You only have to pay for the ATE premium if your case is successful.

To learn more about the difference between general and special damages or start a claim today, please call 0800 678 1410 or use our online claim form to arrange a free consultation.