Personal Injury Claims: What Is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages?

In Uncategorized by Garrett, Walker, Aycoth & Olson, Attorneys at Law

Most personal injury cases result in a settlement between the plaintiff (the injured person) and the defendant (the person who caused the injury) and other lawsuits are resolved in court. The following information could help you gain a better understanding of the types of damages awarded and the reasons the court can award the compensation.

Compensatory Damages

When a lawsuit results in compensatory damages for the plaintiff, the court determined that financial reimbursement was justified due to losses. There are two types of compensatory awards the court can consider: actual and general. Actual damages are expenses the plaintiff had to pay as a result of the injury which could include:

  • Medical bills
  • Medication costs
  • Physical, Occupational and/or Speech Therapy expenses
  • Home care services
  • Lost wages and decreased income

General compensatory damages do not have an actual monetary value, but instead are estimated based on the emotional impact and life-altering circumstances the injury causes. The value of general damages varies greatly and can be difficult to estimate. Examples of general damages are:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional suffering
  • Anticipated future losses for employment and income
  • Ongoing future medical expenses
  • Decreased quality of life

Punitive Damages

When the defendant is overly negligent or intentionally causes the plaintiff’s injury, the court can add punitive damages to the awarded compensation. The main purpose of punitive damages is to prevent others from repeating the conduct. When considering the reasons to add punitive damages, the court must find that the defendant was overly negligent or intentionally caused harm to the plaintiff. 

Settlement vs. Court Decision

The amount of compensation you could receive depends on many factors. Since most personal injury cases are settled out of court, you might be able to negotiate a fair amount of money in a quick and less costly legal proceeding. However, your lawyer might be able to demonstrate that your losses were significant and worth more than the defendant is offering. In these situations, your personal injury attorney can advise you on the advantages and risks of taking your case to court. Court proceedings are lengthy and expensive and if the defendant’s negligence or misconduct is not proven, you risk not receiving any money. 

A personal injury lawyer like one from Therman Law Offices would  recommend a proactive approach to file a personal injury claim rather than not taking action. If you wait too long to file or don’t keep records of your expenses, you might not be able to prove your losses. Consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as you can to find out your best course of action.