Punitive vs. Compensatory Damages in an Accident Case

Categories: Injury Blog

personal injury

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, there are 2 types of damages that your attorney will seek for compensation: Economic losses such as lost wages and medical bills, and compensatory (e.g., pain and suffering) and/or punitive. Not all cases qualify for punitive damages, but every valid personal injury claim will have some sort of compensatory reward. Damages are a monetary award that is given to the plaintiff in order to compensate him or her for injury, medical costs, financial losses, and even physical and mental pain. The plaintiff always seeks compensatory damages, but the compensatory damages that he or she claims will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Exploring Compensatory Options

These damages are designed to actually compensate the injured party for any losses that were a direct result of the accident. Compensatory damages are always sought when a client is injured. This damage award is specifically designed to restore a plaintiff to the financial state that he or she was in prior to the accident. There are two types of compensatory damages that your attorney may seek: Tangible and intangible damages.

Economic compensatory damages are tangible losses that cost the plaintiff money. These damages can include:

  • Medical Treatments – These include any medical bills that incur immediately following the accident – such as emergency room visits, hospitalizations, physical therapy, etc.
  • Loss of Income – This refers to any losses of income that the employee may suffer because of the injury – such as time taken away from work to recover, attending court hearings, or even seeking medical treatment.
  • Loss of Property – This is a reimbursement for any property that was damaged in the accident, such as clothing or the property damage to your vehicle.
  • Legal Fees – This can include court costs, attorney’s fees, and the costs for travel.

Non-economic damages are those that are intangible losses. They are not a physical amount that is computed based on bills and receipts, but based on a person’s suffering. These include:

  • Pain and Suffering – Pain is one of the most difficult damages to reward, because it is hard to determine how much a person deserves because of the pain – or how much pain he or she truly suffered. Plaintiffs can suffer from permanent disability, pain, or even impairment, which will increase their pain and suffering award. If the person has a permanent scar or other disfigurement, it will increase the pain and suffering award as well.
  • Emotional Distress – Car or motorcycle accidents are emotionally and mentally traumatizing. If a person suffers from fear, anxiety, or even loss of sleep post-accident, he or she may receive compensation for that.

Punitive Damage

Punitive damages are not meant to financially compensate or return a person to the same financial state in which he or she was prior to the accident. Instead, they are designed to punish the defendant for negligent or malicious acts. These damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages, but are not awarded in all cases. Instead, the defendant must be guilty of malicious intent or actions that are grossly negligent – and warrant punishment. A willful disregard for the health and safety of others is often required in order for a claim to receive punitive damages. Punitives are meant to not only punish, but to deter the defendant in your case from doing the same thing again, or deter others who don’t want to risk being sued for punitive damages for the same or similar conduct.

Were You Injured? Contact a Pennsylvania Attorney Right Away

If you have been injured, contact me, Jeffrey H. Penneys to discuss your case. I understand what you and your loved ones are going through as you try to recover. Please contact me right away to explore your options for compensation, and let me help you and your family get back to focusing on what matters most. Schedule a meeting by calling my office at 215-987-3550, or my cell at 215-771-0430. You can also fill out my online contact form with your legal questions.