Compensatory vs Punitive Damages

Compensatory vs Punitive Damages

When dealing with a personal injury case for any type of accident, there are so many new terms you encounter that it can make your head spin. Your focus should be on getting the help you need to move forward, and the terminology you encounter while trying to get compensation can be frustrating and confusing.

In legal terms, damages refers to any monetary compensation in a civil case that is intended to right a wrong or harm that occurred to an injured party. There are two main types, compensatory and punitive damages. By learning the difference between these terms, and how an experienced injury attorney can help if you have a personal injury case, you can give yourself the best chance of a successful outcome.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Also called actual damages, compensatory damages are any monetary amounts awarded by the court in a civil lawsuit for any harm or injury a party suffered. Compensatory damages are typically calculated on the basis of proven loss, injury, and any other harm suffered by the plaintiff in a case. The actual amount will generally be based on the sum of expenses, determined market value for damaged or destroyed property, lost wages, and harder to quantify damages such as pain and suffering.

Compensatory damages can be divided into economic damages — consisting of property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages — and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are those that are harder to quantify, such as emotional distress, loss of emotional or physical companionship (consortium), or loss of lifestyle. Although there is no way to calculate a market value for these damages, the court can still award compensation if they were proven to be related to the accident for the purpose of helping to make the plaintiff whole.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are related to compensatory damages, but they are a distinct concept. These types of damages can be awarded if the judge determines there has been provable wanton negligence and recklessness on the part of the defendant that requires punishment. In these circumstances, punitive damages will be awarded in addition to compensatory damages at the discretion of the judge.

Punitive damages are intended to be an addition to compensatory damages, and as the name suggests, are intended to punish the defendant and act as a deterrent for acts that are deemed particularly egregious by the court. To be awarded punitive damages, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant acted with intentional harm and/or knew they were engaging in a potentially harmful act and continued anyway.

Under Florida Law, this is defined as intentional misconduct or gross negligence based on clear and convincing evidence according to Statute 768.72.

What Is the Difference Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages?

The biggest difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages is that punitive damages can only be awarded in addition to compensatory damages, never separately. The idea for punitive damages is that the court is ruling that negligence was so egregious that it deserves additional punishment on top of the compensation given to make the plaintiff whole again. Essentially, punitive damages are less about compensating the plaintiff and more about punishing the defendant and deterring others from engaging in similar actions.

How an Attorney Can Help Your Case

Receiving all of the damages you are entitled to in the aftermath of an accident isn’t as simple as proving injuries. Making your case requires conducting a thorough investigation and collecting a wealth of information. This includes witness interviews and statements from law enforcement and other parties. Having an attorney specializing in personal injury in your corner can mean the difference between the court ruling in your favor and getting all the compensation you are owed, and walking away with less than you are entitled to or even losing your case.

A qualified and experienced attorney will know the common tactics used by defense attorneys in personal injury cases and how to respond. The goal is to help you move on with your life with the funds you need to do so.

Contact Clark Hartpence Law Today for a Free Consultation

If you or someone you love was involved in an accident that may be entitled to compensatory or punitive damages, call our dedicated team at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. The longer you wait, the higher the chances that you may lose out on your ability to file for certain types of damages or on your ability to obtain reliable evidence for your case.