Understanding the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages with a Personal Injury Claim

Personal injury claims run the gamut from car accidents to malfunctioning products. However, all injury claims are unique and described by the degree of negligence and intent that led to the injury. For instance, intentional neglect or intentional harm is a criminal act punishable by prison terms. Unintentional neglect, like a car accident, often does not result in a prison sentence, but victims can still seek restitution for losses incurred. In either situation, the victim or the representative for a victim can seek financial losses in the form of punitive or compensatory damages.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not awarded in every case, and many states may limit punitive claims based on the severity of the injury and the level of intent or neglect demonstrated by the defendant. As the name implies, punitive damages are designed to punish or penalize the perpetrator. Therefore, in cases where the injury resulted from a legitimate accident, something unintended, then a judge may not see a reason to punish the defendant anymore than with compensatory damages. While a victim may not agree with such a decision, the court must view an incident with unbiased eyes, to be fair to both parties, and to make an honest assessment of the event and evidence provided.

Compensatory Damages

The most common forms of restitution sought during a personal injury case are compensatory damages. These claims are made to help the injured party financially recover from their injuries. However, the definition cannot be so limited. Compensatory damages cover at least two subtopics: actual and general losses.

Actual losses are those things that are provable. For example, injuries can be proven through medical records, and a victim can prove financial loss through hospital bills and rehabilitation expenses. Also, receipts from any purchases of medical equipment can help prove financial hardship. Beyond medical, an individual can claim lost wages, increased living expenses, property modification expenses and anything else related to the accident.

General losses are those things that are not so easily proven. For example, mental anguish, loss of opportunity, loss of consortium and pain and suffering are all forms of general losses. These damages can only be estimated because there is no actual financial way to assess the injury. Other examples of general losses include future expenses, like medical and professional losses.

Therefore, punitive damages are meant to punish the responsible party, and compensatory damages are intended to rectify a victim’s financial losses. If you are considering a personal injury claim and would like to discuss your options, then contact a local personal injury attorney.

 

Source: Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Tampa, FL, Jeff Murphy Law

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