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The Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Personal injury cases can be confusing. How do you know what you are entitled to after sustaining injuries in an accident caused by someone else? There are many different factors that go into the final amount of payment you receive with the help of an injury lawyer after an accident. How can you be sure you receive a fair amount?

Compensatory and punitive damages can be awarded to the victim of an accident. But what do those terms mean? And how do you know how much you stand to receive as a result of these damages?

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are an effort to compensate the victim of an accident for any damages they might have suffered at the hand of another person. The other party must be found to be at fault for the accident through a form of negligence.

The court will award these damages to the plaintiff of a personal injury lawsuit. The amount of money awarded will depend on figures drawn from the amount of loss incurred by the victim.

Compensatory damages are further divided into either special damages or general damages.

Special Damages

Also called “actual damages,” these are damages that can be tallied as a result of provable and measurable loss. There are a wide variety of types of figures that can be included in the final amount awarded for special damages.

This includes considerations such as:

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General Damages

These damages are a little more difficult to enumerate. They are generally not associated with a firm price as a hospital bill or body shop estimate. General damages are subjective. These are generally more related to long-term effects that might not be easily seen.

This includes scenarios such as:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Disfigurement
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of companionship

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages in their basic function in a personal injury case. While compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the victim, punitive damages are mostly geared toward punishing the party responsible for the lawsuit.

These damages are not as easily defined as compensatory damages, but a personal injury lawyer can still seek them if they feel the situation is appropriate. Although, they must be able to prove gross negligence in order to do so.

The court doesn’t want frivolous lawsuits to clog up the court system. And suing for punitive damages when there isn’t a realistic basis to do so can be met with disciplinary action.

As this is meant to be a means of disciplining the defendant, it’s very important that there is a clear reason to seek these damages.

What Situations Result in Punitive Damages?

These situations are a bit more rare than compensatory damages. As we said earlier, the defendant will need to be found grossly negligent in order to be punished with punitive damages.

Gross negligence is a brazen disregard for the safety and well-being of others. This is more than simply being careless. The act needs to be willful and proven to be harmful to those around them.

There are a variety of situations that could result in this gross negligence.

Gross negligence could be shown if a driver, for example, travels at an unreasonably high rate of speed through an area with a large amount of pedestrian traffic. Another example would be a doctor prescribing a medication that elicits an allergic reaction in the patient.

These damages are aimed at punishing the perpetrator, but they also help to discourage others from behaving in a similar fashion.

An example of this could be if a driver slams into another vehicle on the road after as the result of road rage. Punitive damages could be levied against the driver to convince other drivers to keep their emotions under control.

Other examples of punitive damages for personal injury cases could be if a person were to intentionally strike another person with their vehicle. Or perhaps a parent encouraged a child to operate a vehicle resulting in the injury of a fellow motorist.

These situations show people acting extremely carelessly, even maliciously, and can result in extra damages being awarded to the defendant in addition to the compensatory damages.

Contact an Injury Lawyer in Nashville and Bowling Green

Personal injury cases have a lot of moving parts. Correctly filing for appropriate damages takes the assistance of professionals. Bart Durham Injury Law has been helping people in Nashville, TN and Bowling Green, KY get the compensation they deserve for decades.

Have you been the victim of an accident? Has it had wide-ranging negative effects not only on your finances and personal health, but your day-to-day life? Call Bart Durham Injury Law today and get the compensation you deserve!

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