General and special damages: what’s the difference in a personal injury claim?

Tue 6th Oct 2020

Sharon Parsons of Coodes Solicitors’ Personal Injury team explains the difference between general and special damages in a personal injury or clinical negligence compensation claim.

If you have been injured as a result of an accident or another person or organisation’s negligence you may be able to claim compensation. The compensation you receive if your claim is successful is commonly referred to as damages.

There are two main categories of compensation that you can recover in personal injury and medical negligence claims. These are known as general damages and special damages.

What are general damages?

General damages relate to the impact of an injury, which cannot be mathematically assessed at the date of trial. These include pain, suffering and loss of amenity (often referred to as a PSLA award).

The pain and suffering element of a PSLA award compensates the claimant for all past, present and future physical and psychiatric symptoms. That means that, as well as reflecting the impact the incident has already had, it seeks to account for future suffering.

The loss of amenity element aims to compensate the claimant for loss of enjoyment of life or the inability to complete everyday tasks, either permanently or temporarily, after an accident. This typically relates to activities that previously did not cause any problems, including hobbies, such as playing golf or attending a dance class.

These types of damages can be hard to obtain because a claimant has to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that these losses are significant and have had an effect on quality of life.

When assessing damages for PSLA, the courts will consider whether the claimant had a pre-existing disability or whether the injury accelerated a pre-existing condition. The claimant’s age and sex may also impact on the level of ward.

In addition to PSLA, other examples of claims for general damages include:

  • Mental pain and anguish. This could include, for example, PTSD, depression or flashbacks, which have occurred since the incident.
  • Loss of career. The cost of retraining could be included in compensation when injuries are so severe the claimant cannot return to the pre-accident profession.
  • Handicap on the labour market. When a claimant can show that, as result of their injuries, there is a real risk that they will be out of work in the future and find it difficult to obtain another job. This is in addition to any future loss of earnings claim.
  • Loss of job satisfaction, as a result of having to give up on your dream career. For example, a claimant established a career as a gardener, which is a job they loved, but they have been forced to change to a different job as a result of the injury. In these cases, this is known as the loss of congenial employment.
  • Loss of prospects. A claimant is entitled to recover damages if, for example, their marriage has broken down as a result of their injuries.

What are special damages?

Special damages may be awarded to cover the financial losses and actual expenses incurred as a result of an accident or negligent medical treatment. The aim is to put you back in the financial position you would have been had the accident or negligence not occurred.

Special damages include past losses and predicted future losses, including:

  • Past and/or future loss of earnings.
  • Past and/or future medication or treatment costs.
  • Past and/or future travel expenses.
  • Past and/or future care and assistance. This would be relevant when an injured person received, or will require, help with everyday household tasks or personal care which they would not have needed, had it not been for the accident.
  • Future loss of pension. This could be included in your compensation if you have to take early retirement because of your injuries.

It is important to remember that an injured person has a duty to minimise their losses. This is known as mitigating the loss and is something that will be assessed by the courts.

Getting specialist legal advice at the earliest stage is the best way to ensure you can pursue any personal injury or clinical negligence compensation claim.

Sharon Parsons is an Accredited Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. For advice on any of these issues, please contact Sharon Parsons in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team at Coodes Solicitors on 01326 213033 or

Tue 6th Oct 2020

Sharon Parsons

Litigation Executive

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