What are Special Damages?

When you make a successful claim for compensation, you will be awarded Damages. In legal terms, ‘Damages’ refers to the amount of money awarded to a claimant to compensate for the losses caused by the defendant. Under UK law, these damages consist of two parts:

  • General damages, which compensate for the direct effects of the injury or illness (such as the pain experienced after sustaining a broken leg in a trip or fall), and,
  • Special damages

Special damages cover the expenses or financial losses you may have incurred as a result of the injury or illness.

If you suffered an injury at work which is found to be the fault of your employer or another third party, you may be able to claim special damages for the following:

Loss of income

If you had to take time off work to recover from a workplace injury, you may be able to claim for lost income. Injuries that require ongoing treatment, surgery, time in hospital or rest and recuperation often mean that you must take time off work.

Common injuries that may require time off work include:

  • Broken bones, assuming you are unable to move are work easily
  • Head injuries, where rest and regular monitoring of your condition may be needed
  • Burns or scalds where a course of treatment or surgery requires periods of hospitalisation

While many companies cover sick leave for a certain time period, you may find that your recovery time extends beyond this period, or that your pay is put on hold or reduced after a certain length of time. A claimant may struggle financially during this time as their usual source of income is affected. Interim awards of compensation are often made in these circumstances, if the claim has a good chance of success.

Claiming special damages for loss of income allows you to recover the money you were unable to earn due to your incapacitation and inability to work.

Loss of earning capacity

A workplace injury may have a long-term impact on your earning capacity. For example, if you work in a physical job such as manual labour, a strain or back injury could mean that you are no longer able to lift certain loads and therefore perform the same job as effectively.

Common injuries that result in loss of earning capacity include:

  • Back injuries from lifting heavy objects or moving people in the care and medical fields
  • Head injuries resulting in epilepsy meaning you can no longer drive or operate heavy machinery
  • Spinal injuries resulting in a degree of restricted movement or paralysis

If a long term workplace injury means that you can no longer work as before, this could have a lasting impact on your earning capacity. You may earn less throughout the rest of your working life as a result of the injury, particularly if your injury prevents you from performing a specialist role that you have trained for and that commands higher wages.

Claiming special damages for loss of earning capacity is intended to compensate you, at least partially, for this loss of future earnings.

Medical expenses

You may incur medical-related fees as a result of a work injury. If you require long-term ongoing treatment, adaptations to your home, cosmetic surgery, specialist treatment or other additional medical expenses, you may be able to claim for the cost of these.

This right may include claiming for private medical treatment if, for example, NHS delays would result in a further deterioration in your health by the time you received NHS treatment.

Other financial losses

If you have sustained other losses, such as damage to property or incurred travel costs as a result of your accident (e.g. travelling to and from hospital appointments by taxi or bus), you may also be able to claim special damages for these costs. However, you will need to demonstrate that you could not have recovered the cost through other means, e.g. a home or car insurance policy.