Written by attorney Dan R. Denton

Elements of Actual Damages in Negligence Cases.

When one person is injured by the negligent acts of another, the injured person is entitled to be fully compensated for all injuries directly or proximately resulting from any negligent acts or omissions by the defendant.

In determining the amount of compensation for injuries suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant's negligence, the judge in a jury trial will instruct the jury that it is proper for it to consider and award past, present, and future damages for the following elements of damages, or that these factors should be considered and included, when appropriate and supported by the evidence, in the jury’s award:

  • Loss of income;
  • Loss or impairment of earning capacity;
  • Out-of-pocket expenses;
  • Medical expenses, including physicians, hospital, medicines, physical therapy expenses, rehabilitation expenses, and transportation expenses connected with medical treatment;
  • Any future damages resulting from permanent injuries;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Loss of family services;
  • deprivation of normal life expectancy;
  • Alteration of lifestyle;
  • Psychological trauma;
  • Mental anguish;
  • Mental distress;
  • Apprehension;
  • Anxiety;
  • Emotional injury;
  • Psychological injury;
  • Depression;
  • Sexual dysfunction;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

(Content adapted from Ralph King Anderson, Jr., South Carolina Requests to Charge – Civil, §13-3.)

Punitive Damages

In cases involving gross negligence, willful conduct or recklessness on the part of the wrongdoer, the plaintiff may also seek punitive damages in addition to actual damages. Punitive damages are imposed as punishment. They are not intended to compensate, but are allowed in the interest of society in the nature of punishment and as a warning and example to deter the wrongdoer and others from committing like offenses in the future. Moreover, they serve to vindicate a private right by requiring the wrongdoer to pay money to the injured party. If punitive damages are sought, a jury would receive a detailed explanation from the judge as to the what type of circumstances would justify an award for punitive damages, as well as a list of factors the jury must consider in determining whether punitive damages should be awarded and in determining the amount of the award.

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