Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages in an Accident Case

Categories: Car Accident Lawyer

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In an accident case, a victim can suffer from physical injuries, property damage and other devastating losses. Because injuries or other losses were caused by the negligence of another, the plaintiff, also known as the injured party, retains the right to seek out compensation from the person responsible. Compensation due from negligent actions is commonly referred to as damages.

There are two types of damages awarded in a personal injury claim: compensatory and punitive. Not every plaintiff receives both categories of damages for a case. As such, it is important that individuals understand the differences between the two types of damages and how they will affect their case.

What are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are awarded in most personal injury claims and also are awarded in wrongful death claims. Damages that fall under the category of compensatory are meant to reimburse the plaintiff for any harm they suffered and any costs they encountered because of that harm. Compensatory damages are broken down into two main categories: general and special.

General Compensatory Damages

General damages compensate the plaintiff for any non-monetary losses they have encountered, including pain and suffering, loss of companionship and mental anguish.

Special Compensatory Damages

Special compensatory damages cover all monetary expenses and losses the plaintiff endured. Because these damages may also include future monetary losses the victim is projected to incur because of their injury, there is no limit to special compensatory damages. Some of the items that can fall under special compensatory damages include:

  • Loss of earnings and loss of earning potential
  • Medical costs
  • Future medical care
  • Household expenses
  • Costs associated with altered plans, lost trips, etc.

Wrongful Death

Compensatory damages exist in wrongful death cases as well. These damages are awarded to surviving family members to compensate for:

  • Funeral or burial expenses
  • Pre-death medical costs
  • Loss of financial contribution and support
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of support or services
  • Emotional distress

What are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are only awarded in a small number of personal injury cases. To receive punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s behavior was outrageous or reprehensible. For example, if the defendant was found guilty of driving under the influence, punitive damages may be in order.

Defective product claims often result in punitive damages due to the manufacturer’s failure to adequately protect the public from harmful products or medications – especially when the manufacturer knowingly distributed a harmful substance.

How Damages are Collected

A plaintiff may collect damages once a settlement has been reached with the defendant or an award is issued by the court. If there is an insurance company involved, then collecting the damages is easy. After a “Release” is signed by the plaintiff, the insurance company will issue a check to the plaintiff’s lawyer for the amount of the settlement or award. On the other hand, if there is no insurance available, and the defendant is unwilling to pay, it becomes far less easy.

Get Assistance with Your Claim – Contact Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. for a free consultation. We can assess your options, potential damages and help file your claim so that you can recover the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-465-8795 or complete an online contact form to get started.