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What are Special Damages in Personal Injury Cases?

Special damages in personal injury cases are the sums of money awarded to address any financial loss you have suffered due to your injury and return your financial position to what it would have been had the incident or injury never occurred.

Special damages in personal injury cases allow you to recover financial expenses you have incurred which are directly related to your injury.

What do I need to Claim Special Damages?

If you are claiming for special damages, you need to keep receipts of all the expenses you have incurred. These will be used by your solicitor or a court to quantify your special damages claim as well as credible estimations of future costs you may incur which are directly related to your injury.

The financial implications of a personal injury can be wide ranging and, due to the emotional impact of your injury, you may not be in a position to consider this immediately; consequently it would be wise to discuss your claim with an injury claims solicitor as early as possible.

What Expenses can you Claim Special Damages for?

Special damages can be claimed for practically any expense attributed to your loss or injury. To explain this in better detail it is best to divide special damages costs into two sections, ‘incidental’ special damages and ‘consequential’ special damages.

Incidental special damages refer to the costs you incur while remedying your situation. For instance if you were injured in a car accident while travelling to work, any expenses related to your medical treatment (that were not covered by the NHS) as well as the cost of repairing your car would be recognised as incidental special damages.

Consequential special damages in personal injury cases carry a much greater scope than incidental damages. Using the above example of a car accident, you would be able to include the following in your special damages claim:

  • The loss of income and pension contributions from being unable to work.
  • The cost of using alternative transport while unable to drive your car.
  • The cost of a carer if required.
  • The cost of renovating your home if you were permanently confined to a wheelchair.

However, a special damages claim does not include compensation for emotional trauma suffered as a consequence of the accident. For example a deterioration in your quality of life from being unable to work or be socially or physically active does not fall under the remit of special damages, instead they are covered by personal injury general damages. A personal injury claims solicitor will be able to explain this in greater detail.

Claiming for Special Damages and Contributory Negligence

If, through your own negligence, you are found to have contributed to your accident or the extent of your injury, then the value of the costs you can recover will be affected.

A percentage liability will be assigned to you which will be taken into account when you are claiming for special damages and that percentage will be deducted from your special damages claim. Similarly the percentage will be applied to the general damages you are entitled to.

Taking the example given earlier of the car accident on the way to work, if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, or are found to have shown a disregard for your own health and safety -even if it had no impact on the injury received- you will be penalised for your own lack of care.

The reduction of special damages in personal injury cases can be as high as 33 per cent for not wearing a seatbelt, which would represent a significant reduction of any compensation settlement.

What is the Time Limit for Making a Special Damages Claim?

The Limitations Act of 1980 states that you have a time limit of three years from the date of knowledge (that is the date in which you first had knowledge of your injury) to make a claim for personal injury compensation. The same limit applies to a claim for special damages.

Of course there are exceptions. For example if a child suffers an injury in an accident for which they were not at fault, they cannot initiate legal action in their own name until they reach the age of 18. Once they reach that age that age they have three years to make a claim for compensation.

However a parent or guardian can make a personal injury claim on behalf of the child. You should claim as soon as possible if your child suffers a life-changing injury, as this will ensure that – once an injury compensation claim is settled – the funds are available for the medical and educational needs of the child.

What Role do Insurance Companies Play?

Insurance companies are responsible for settling special damages in personal injury cases as well as the general damages and it is possible the negligent party’s insurance company may make an unsolicited offer of compensation in return for the quick settlement of your claim.

However, it is worth remembering that you run the risk of losing out on your full compensation entitlement because the insurance company is unlikely to have completed a full assessment of your injury and the consequences of your injury prior to making an early offer for settlement. Therefore you could be under-compensated by settling early.

If you are worried about the length of time your personal injury compensation claim may take, and believe you will experience financial difficulties while waiting for it, speak with a personal injury claims solicitor about applying for interim payments of special damages.

Summary of Claiming for Special Damages in Personal Injury Cases

If you are unsure of what expenses you should be claiming for special damages, discuss the circumstances surrounding your accident and the financial consequences you have experienced with a personal injury claims solicitor at the first possible moment.

There is no guesswork when it comes to placing a figure on quantifiable special damages in personal injury cases so you must be able to provide proof of the cost of your injury to date and an accurate estimation of future expenses which are directly related to your injury.

You must also claim within three years from the date of knowledge unless you are making a claim for special damages on behalf of a child, in which case you should refer back to page relating to children´s injury claims for further information.