Q&A: What is the difference between compensatory and punitive damages?

Compensatory vs punitive damages

“Hi Roller!  What damages am I entitled to? And what is the difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages?”

Thanks for your question.  We get asked this on a daily basis. In virtually any personal injury case, the injured victim is entitled to compensatory damages.  In the rare case, a person may also be entitled to punitive damages. If someone’s negligence caused your injury, you may be able to receive compensation.

What is the difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages? 

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate an injured victim for their loss.  Whereas, punitive damages are intended to punish the person at fault (the at fault party) for behavior beyond the accepted societal norms.  The most obvious example of punitive damages would be if you were struck by a drunk driver or intentional attacked by someone.

Simply put, compensatory damages are intended to bring you back to where you were before the injury and repair the damage that was caused by the at fault party.  These include:

  1. Actual economic damages
    1. medical bills
    2. lost wages
    3. property loss/damage
  2. Other intangible losses
    1. pain and suffering
    2. disability or physical impairment
    3. disfigurement
    4. mental anguish
    5. inconvenience
    6. Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.

All of these compensatory damages, whether economic or intangible, are calculated both for the past and for the future.

Punitive damages are designed to prevent anyone else from being hurt by that similar action.  They are awarded not to compensate injured plaintiffs, but to punish the defendant whose conduct is considered intentional or negligent.  Examples would be if a drunk driver or distracted driver (usage of a cell phone) made a conscious decision to drive and possible harm another person, you can seek punitive damages. Another example is if a company sells a defective product that can cause damage, they could be ordered to pay punitive damages once it is proven that they were negligent in selling that product.

Need more information?  We are here to help.  Call us at: 1-888-HI-ROLLER (447-6553) and we are happy to discuss your case.  And remember, there are no costs to you for our representation, and we only get paid if you get paid!







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