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A Quick Guide to Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Published on July 14th, 2020

Personal Injury Lawyer

After an accident occurs that results in a personal injury, the attorney files a legal action requesting damages. However, there are two types of damages within the legal system, and they are very different. Here is a quick guide to each.

Compensatory Is To Reimburse

When a personal injury case is filed with the court, the plaintiff asks for compensatory damages as a reimbursement for medical bills, loss of income, missed work, and vehicle repairs, if applicable. This type of claim asks for the plaintiff to be “made whole” using money as a way to fix the damages and injuries caused by the defendant. In a compensation request to the court, there is no punishment involved.

Punitive Means Punishment

When a court case ends with a guilty verdict for a defendant, and the offense committed was egregious, shocking, or appalling, the court can order a monetary “punishment” against the defendant known as punitive damages. The extra compensation can also occur when the original reparation is deemed insufficient for the crime committed against the injured party or parties. Punitive monies are always bonus amounts added to the compensatory reimbursement.

Claims For Punishment

Awards for punitive damages must be based on the actions of the defendant, but the state the injuries left the plaintiff in is also taken into account. Some of the guidelines used for establishing the criteria for punitive awards are:

  • Monetary compensation to the plaintiff
  • Severity of conduct exhibited by the defendant
  • Damage to the plaintiff – emotional, physical, and mental
  • Malicious or negligent intent of the defendant

The claims for punitive damage do not supersede the compensatory awards. Instead, they are added to the compensation by the judge at the end of the case, or by the jury at the conclusion of a trial.

Action Warrants Punishment

If the plaintiff can prove the defendant acted with disregard for the life or liberty of others when committing the harmful actions, punitive damages are warranted. The complete disregard for another’s safety can include activities such as:

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Running from the police
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Traveling excessively over the speed limit

Compensation Isn’t Punishment

The legal system believes that compensation isn’t enough when someone has committed a malicious, intentional, or negligent action that causes someone pain, suffering, or death. Contacting a personal injury attorney, like a personal injury lawyer from The Lawfirm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C., is the best way to obtain more information about a possible case when someone is injured. Most lawyers offer a free consultation. Why not give one a call today?


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