What are general and special damages in a cycling injury claim?
When we talk about damages we mean the amount of money awarded to a claimant to compensate him for the suffering and losses that were sustained as a result of someone else's actions. For the purposes of making a claim, these actions are usually considered to have been negligent, reckless or intentional.
General damages are those that are awarded to the claimant for his pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
The law attempts to correct wrongs done to individuals by returning them to the place they would have been if the wrong had never happened.
In the case of an injury claim however, the Court cannot undo the injuries that a claimant has sustained, and therefore an amount of compensation is awarded. This compensation is calculated based on the nature, duration and severity of the injury, and on the impact the injury has had on the claimant's life.
These assessments are based on the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases, published by the Judicial College.
Special damages are essentially a reimbursement of the costs or losses incurred by the claimant as a result of his injuries.
Unlike general damages, special damages are unique to your circumstances, and represent the losses you have incurred as a result of the cycling accident.
How much compensation might I be awarded for my cycling accident?
The amount of compensation awarded depends on your injuries, how severe they are, whether they will have a lasting impact on your life and what this might be.
The court will examine medical evidence that details the extent of your physical and mental impairment and its judgement of how long it will take for you to recover fully (if at all).
When making its assessment the court will also consider the link between your injuries and the actions of the defendant.
If a driver took an action that caused you to fall from your cycle and fracture your collar bone, it is clear you would sustain some pain and suffering. In order for the bone to heal you would be required to immobilise your arm, meaning you would be unable to carry out certain tasks for around 6 weeks.
This may be followed by some impairment of the shoulder, requiring a period of physiotherapy and exercise before full movement was restored. The long term prognosis would be that you would not be physically disfigured and that there would be no lasting effects from your injury, but you would be compensated for the pain and suffering you had sustained over that period.
However, if you had also broken your jaw and teeth in the accident, it is likely that you would sustain longer term impairment, plus physical disfigurement - leading to mental anguish and a lessened quality of life. In this case the court would need to assess how long the impairment would last or whether it would be permanent. For instance, good dental repair work should reduce the physical disfigurement, and therefore the mental anguish, within a specified period of time.
What about the special damages?
In the described incident you would be able to claim for loss of wages or loss of earning capacity if you were unable to work due to your injuries.
You might incur expenses, such as taxi or bus fares, for travelling to hospital appointments for treatment. There might be costs involved in obtaining certain treatments and medication. You may need to pay someone to carry out tasks that you are unable to perform due to your incapacity, such as visiting the shops or housework.
If your cycle was damaged in the accident there will be costs involved in either replacing your cycle or in its repair.
You may also need to claim for irreplaceable items that were lost in the accident. Special damages are easier to calculate as they have an exact monetary value, but you must keep all receipts as evidence to prove your losses.
How should I make a claim?
If you have suffered a cycling injury as a result of someone else's negligence or behaviour you should speak to an experienced personal injury solicitor who can advise what you may be able to claim, and how to do so.