When seeking justice after an act of abuse, understanding the way that the court awards compensation is highly important. There are different terms related to compensation that will be used throughout the process of the trial, all of which directly matter to the resolution of the case.
Actual damages in any personal injury case are defined as either “general” or “special.” Special damages are those for which a specific dollar value can be assigned and easily calculated. Hence, lost income, lost future earnings capacity, medical expenses (both past and future) and any other out-of-pocket expenses reasonably necessary to place the victim back into circumstances that he or she would have enjoyed in the absence of the abuse.
General damages include all such damages for which a specific dollar figure is hard to calculate. The ability to assign a specific dollar value to these damages is left to the sound discretion of the jury.
The most recognizable element of general damages is “pain and suffering”. Pain and suffering damages can include disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of esteem, and in the most general of terms, loss of the basic enjoyment of life.
The third type of damages that are possible but less likely to be awarded are Punitive Damages. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate the victim for the abuser’s wrongdoing. They are designed to punish the wrongdoing and to be in such an amount that other similarly situated defendants will be deterred from similar wrongful acts.
Not every case warrants punitive damages, and they are greatly disfavored by the courts except in the most extreme cases of misconduct. In Missouri, jury instructions define the conduct for which a jury may award punitive damages as follows: Punitive damages are appropriate only when the conduct of defendant is outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference to the rights of others.