What are General Damages?
When you make a successful compensation claim for a work accident or injury, you will be awarded damages.
‘Damages’ is a legal term referring to the amount of money awarded to a claimant as a result of the defendant’s negligence or otherwise damaging actions.
Damages can be grouped into two main categories:
- General damages, and,
- Special damages (click here for more information about special damages)
About General Damages
A successful compensation claim will always award general damages. General damages are awarded in respect of the directly-caused injuries from an incident, where there is a clear link between the defendant’s negligence and your injury or illness.
General damages for a work accident or injury might include the following:
Physical pain and suffering
Work accidents that cause injury are considered by the court to cause the injured employee 'pain, suffering, and loss of amenity'. Solicitors sometimes refer to this as 'PSLA'. You will likely be awarded general damages for the 'pain and suffering' caused as a result of workplace injuries such as:
- A broken leg sustained in a fall from height at work
- A back injury caused by a warehouse accident
- Dermatitis from exposure to strong cleaning chemicals without proper gloves
If your injury is so serious that you are physically impaired as a result, you will be able to claim general damages for this restriction or limitation of movement. Accidents resulting in very long-term or permanent physical impairment, such as a shoulder injury that prevents you from moving your arm above your head, you will likely be awarded more in general damages than a temporary physical impairment caused by a broken leg for example.
Scars, burns and disfigurement
If the injury results in a permanent change to your appearance, your general damages compensation will usually take this into account. Examples include:
- Lacerations causing permanent scarring
- Burns, including chemical burns and electrical burns
- Loss of a body part, such as part of an ear, a finger or limb
- Hair loss
Compensation for less-visible scars, such as scarring to an area usually covered by clothing, is generally quite low, if there are no other serious or long-term injuries. Visible scars, and particularly scarring to the face, however, can result in much higher awards for general damages.
An injury that occurs at work may have a lasting psychological impact on a claimant. Mental anguish in the weeks and months following a serious or frightening accident is common, and a claimant may become nervous, anxious, panicky and stressed. It may be that, without a formal diagnosis, the claimant does not associate their changes in mood to the stress caused by the accident.
Some injured employees lose sleep or suffer from nightmares, or have flashbacks of the injury.
General damages do also include compensation for the psychological harm caused by an accident, provided that the mental harm is formally diagnosed by a medical specialist. Your solicitor, or the doctor conducting your medical report, may refer you to a specialist for diagnosis.
Lower quality of life
If your work illness or injury has has an impact on your quality of life, this will be taken into account in your claim.
This effect on the quality of your life includes the 'loss of amenity' referred to above. If you can no longer partake in hobbies or sports because of your injury, that you regularly participated in before your work accident, this loss is factored into your general damages calculation.
An amateur pianist who permanently injures their finger at work and can no longer play the piano, for example, may receive more, in general damages compensation, than an individual who has sustained the same accident, but is still able to pursue the same hobbies they did before the accident.