Compensatory Damages vs Punitive Damages

Compensatory Damages vs Punitive Damages

When filing a lawsuit, many people are naturally curious about how much compensation they can receive. Courts or settlements award different types of financial compensation depending on the specifics of your particular claim. In some instances, individuals can even recover multiple forms of compensation. The two types of damages are compensatory and punitive damages. A victim who suffered harm due to the negligent party’s actions can win a monetary award for punitive damages, compensatory damages, or both. 

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages compensate victims for their injuries, losses, and the damage they endured. For instance, if you experience adverse health effects from a company’s defective product, you may develop a long-term injury that interferes with your ability to return to work. Compensatory damages cover: 

  • Past and future medical expenses 
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Property damage
  • Other economic losses related to your injury 

Overall, compensatory sums reimburse you for the calculated total costs incurred by your accident. But courts divide compensatory damages into two categories: general damages and special damages. Special damages apply to tangible expenses the victim endured because of the injury. These losses are easily quantifiable since the victim can likely provide documentation to determine the exact value. Medical bills, lost earnings, and other out-of-pocket expenses all fall under special damages. 

On the other hand, with general damages, it is harder to assign a specific dollar amount. General damages refer to more subjective and less quantifiable damages like mental anguish, loss of quality of life, emotional distress, and so on. Loss of consortium also belongs in the class of general damages. If an accident or injury causes the victim to have difficulty maintaining or forming relationships, this counts as general damages. Both special and general damages add to your total compensatory damages. 

What Are Punitive Damages?

Compensatory damages directly benefit the victim, meanwhile, punitive damages punish the defendant. Punitive damages aim to prevent the defendant from engaging in the same negligent actions in the future. Also known as “exemplary damages,” punitive damages make an example of the defendant to deter them and anyone else from acting in a similar manner. A court may require a large company or other entity to pay punitive damages if they sold an unreasonably dangerous product or device. If the plaintiff shows that the company knew or should have known that its product presented a risk of injury or death to the public, the company will likely pay for its willfully negligent conduct. Drunk or distracted driving are smaller-scale examples in which a court orders a defendant to pay punitive damages. 

The Difference Between Punitive and Compensatory Damages

These types of compensation affect the two different parties involved in the claim. Compensatory damages provide money for the injured victim for physical and emotional harm. This form of compensation helps the filing party cover medical costs and addresses the extent of injuries. However, punitive damages are designed to penalize the defendant. Furthermore, compensatory damages are more common than punitive damages. Generally, courts order punitive damages if the at-fault party acted in an especially egregious way. For example, if a manufacturer produced a drug but concealed its hazardous side effects from the public, the judge may consider punitive damages appropriate. While the defendant pays punitive damages as a form of punishment, the plaintiff still receives the monetary award. 

Can I Speak With An Attorney?

The personable and friendly attorneys at The Lake Law Firm are ready and able to answer any questions concerning your potential claim or financial compensation. While we cannot definitively determine the exact sum you may receive, we are happy to discuss the possibilities and explain the potential financial outcomes of your claim. 

The Lake Law Firm was founded by Edward J. Lake, Esq., a personal injury lawyer for over 25 years. Our dedicated team of attorneys is committed to seeking justice on behalf of those who have suffered injury or death due to the negligence of others. Our experienced attorneys handle many different types of pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, and other defective products. The lawyers in our firm have helped collect millions of dollars for their clients. The Lake Law Firm will advocate for you and your rights. Please contact us for a free confidential case evaluation at (888) 274-0139.