What is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

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If you are seriously injured in an accident due to another party or entity’s negligence, you can file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for the damages you have endured. Victims may receive two types of damages if their case is successful: compensatory and punitive. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you should enlist the help of a qualified Chesterfield County Personal Injury Lawyer who can help you fight for the justice you deserve. Please continue reading to learn the critical differences between compensatory and punitive damages. 

What is the Purpose of Compensatory Damages?

As the name suggests, compensatory damages compensate or reimburse victims for the harm, injury, and losses they have wrongfully endured. There are two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages. Economic or actual damages usually have a dollar amount, meaning they can be easily quantified. These damages represent your tangible losses. For example,  if you were injured in an auto accident that wrecked your vehicle, broke your leg, or prevented you from working work for three months while you recovered, you would be compensated for your property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Compensatory damages can also include non-economic losses. These damages don’t represent the victim’s financial losses from their injuries. Instead, it covers non-tangible losses, like emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, disfigurement, etc. These damages are subjective. To receive compensatory damages, you must be able to prove that your losses are attributable to the defendant’s negligent actions.

What is the Purpose of Punitive Damages?

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not designed to compensate victims to cover the cost of what was lost due to the accident. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for their egregious misconduct. These damages are intended to deter the defendant from acting in the same reckless manner that led to the accident in the future. In addition, they serve as a deterrent to the general public to prevent others from engaging in similar harmful misconduct.

Punitive damages are rarely awarded. However, they can be recovered if a defendant is found grossly negligent. For instance, if a person operates a vehicle while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes an accident that results in severe harm to another person, they can be considered grossly negligent. This is because not only did they violate the law, but they also showed a complete disregard for the safety or lives of others.

It’s crucial to understand that being awarded compensatory damages does not prevent a party from receiving punitive damages. Therefore, if you believe you are entitled to compensatory and punitive damages, it’s in your best interest to contact a knowledgeable Chesterfield County personal injury attorney from the Cockrell Law Firm, P.C., who can assist you through every step of the complex legal process. Our firm can effectively represent your interests and fight for the just compensation you deserve.