Compensatory and Punitive Damages — What’s the difference?

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident or have been wronged in some way because of another party’s wrongdoing, your lawyer may have already explained how they can help maximize your claim for damages in a lawsuit. The purpose of damages is to compensate you for what happened and return you to the position you were in before being harmed.

Juries can award multiple types of damages, including compensatory and punitive damages. Knowing the difference is important, and having the right legal strategy can dramatically affect the amount of money it takes to resolve your case.

Below is a general overview of compensatory and punitive damages:

Types of damages

Compensatory Damages — Also known as “actual damages,” this is the money awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for injury or another incurred loss such as damage to property. The goal is to replace what you lost and restore you to the financial state you were in before you were wronged. In other words, “make you whole again.” Compensatory damages are further broken down into special damages and general damages and account for everything from damage to real property to economic loss, medical expenses, and even such things as emotional distress and pain and suffering.

A few examples of what is covered under compensatory damages include:

  • Medical and hospital bills
  • Physical therapy
  • Lost wages (current and future)
  • Property replacement or repair
  • Transportation
  • Mental anguish
  • Disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Increased living expenses

Punitive Damages

While the focus of compensatory damages is to return the victim to the state they were in before they were wronged, the idea behind punitive damages is to punish the offending party for egregious conduct. To be awarded punitive damages, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show the defendant’s actions were intentional.

If awarded, punitive damages may be in addition to any compensatory damages.

Call Nelson Law Group today!!

The Nelson Law Group brings two decades of experience to each case we handle. We have extensive bench and jury trial experience in complex litigation matters, including fire insurance coverage, statutory penalty, pension credit, defective construction, product liability, personal injury, worker’s compensation, and more. We work with people who have been sued as well as people who are pursuing claims, which means we know how to look at all perspectives in your case.

We will devise a comprehensive strategy based on our years of experience, intuitive legal skill, and the desired outcome of your case. If you have more questions about compensatory and punitive damages, give our knowledgeable staff a call. For more information about Brett A Nelson, click here.