What are “Special Damages?”
When negotiating a claim, insurance adjusters often use the term “special damages” as part of their calculation of the amount of an offer. This term is a shorthand way of describing those damages that can be readily ascertained with numeric specificity. Examples include the amount of medical bills, the amount of wage loss or damage to a vehicle.
Adjusters often use the term “general damages” to describe items like pain and suffering as well as loss of full mind and body which are not subject to a mathematical formula.
Although these shorthand descriptions are helpful in evaluating cases for the adjuster, they are not necessarily a legally accurate method to determine damages.
It is often the case that an adjuster will make an offer of “special damages” plus some (usually small) amount for “general” damages. On the other hand, there are those who may have heard that there is some formula that a case is worth “three times special damages,” or the like.
These broad approaches miss the point that every case is unique. For example, a person with a catastrophic injury such as a lost limb, but very small medical bills would have damages far exceeding “three times specials.” On the other hand, a person could have a single very expensive hospital visit but very few residual symptoms.
When determining the amount of damages an injures person has sustained, “special damages” provide a starting point. However, the real value of a case is a function of many other factors that are often ignored by insurance adjusters.