The Differences Between Punitive and Compensatory Damages
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to recover multiple forms of compensation, depending on the circumstances and the facts of the situation. Yet, although most victims often receive compensatory damages for the harm they endured, there are some cases where punitive damages may be available. To better help you understand what your case may be worth and what compensation you may be able to pursue, this blog post will discuss the different types of available damages and what you need to prove to obtain them.
What Exactly Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages refer to compensation that reimburses a victim (or a plaintiff) for their damages, injuries, or other incurred losses that result from an accident. These damages are generally awarded in civil court cases, where loss has occurred because of another party’s negligence or unlawful conduct.
In general, there are two types of compensatory damages, and they are often labeled as “special” and “general” damages.
Special or Actual Economic Damages
These damages refer to the actual losses that a victim has suffered because of an accident. When a court awards these special damages, the sole purpose is to financially compensate the injured party for the actual economic losses they have suffered and make them “whole” or return them to their financial position before the incident occurred. These special damages often include:
- Medical bills such as past, present, and future medical expenses, including doctor visits, surgeries, emergency room visits, and prescription medications
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Personal property damages
- Rehabilitative therapy, including physical and occupational therapy
- Replacement services such as grocery shopping services or child care services
- Home nursing care assistance
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
General or Non-Economic Damages
In comparison, general or non-economic damages refer to losses that are rather subjective and hard to quantify. These damages do not necessarily involve out-of-pocket expenses but instead emotional losses that include things such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Mental Anguish
- Loss of reputation
- Post-traumatic stress
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of enjoyment of life or a diminished quality of life
What Are Punitive Damages?
Unlike compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate the victim, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their egregious and wrongful actions and to deter them and others from committing these actions again in the future. However, in Louisiana, these punitive damages are only available when authorized by statute or when the defendant’s actions are based on a wanton or reckless disregard for the safety and rights of others, such as when a defendant causes injuries because they were driving intoxicated.
Some examples of circumstances that may call for punitive damages:
- If you have been harmed because of domestic violence
- If another person has physically attacked you
- If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision involving gross negligence, such as a car crash caused by a drunk driver
- If you have been harmed by a dangerous product that injured many people.
- If you have been injured in an accident because of a dangerous situation that was discovered and ignored
What are the Main Differences Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages?
Although compensatory and punitive damages are types of damages that the victim can recover following an accident, both have a different effect on the opposing sides of a personal injury claim. For instance, compensatory damages are given to the victim to help pay for their losses and medical bills that the accident caused. On the other hand, punitive damages are intended to penalize the at-fault party.
Another critical difference between the two is compensatory damages are much more common compared to punitive damages. In Louisiana, punitive damages are only awarded in exceptional circumstances.
Examples of Accidents That Can Result in Compensatory Damages
Compensatory damages can be awarded in about any personal injury claim that was created because of another person’s or entity’s negligence. However, these damages are commonly awarded in the following types of accidents:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Truck crashes
- Motorcycle crashes
- Bicycle collisions
- Slip and fall accidents
- Construction accidents
- Boating accidents
- Premises liability accidents
- Medical malpractice incidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Defective product accidents
In comparison, punitive damages are typically designed to punish the tortfeasor. They are available as a remedy by statute or in general maritime actions where a wrongful party’s intentional or wanton and reckless conduct amounts to a conscious disregard for the rights of others. Generally, the standard for punitive damages is a much higher degree of fault than simple negligence, and the amount of punitive damages awarded is considered on a case-by-case basis.
The Statute of Limitations and How It Can Affect Your Compensation
The statute of limitations is a law that dictates the maximum amount of time you have to bring a claim for an alleged offense. If you do not bring a claim within the allotted time period, you can be barred from collecting compensation for your injuries and losses.
In Louisiana, the time limit to bring an injury claim is one year from the date of the accident. However, it is best not to wait. To ensure that your case is filed before time expires, it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
What to Do If You Have Been a Victim of Another Person’s Wrongful Actions
If you or a loved one has been injured because of another person’s wrongful or negligent actions, you deserve legal help that you can count on and trust. That is why it is so important to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. These attorneys can not only walk you through everything you need to know about the legal nuances that these cases entail, but they can also provide you the legal assistance that you require.
These lawyers can:
- Evaluate all of your potential claims, provide you with the legal advice you need, and go over your legal options.
- Discuss all of your questions and concerns and offer you the support you require during this difficult time.
- Investigate your case and build the strongest possible claim by securing vital evidence needed to prove liability and damages.
- Hold all the liable parties accountable for the harm and losses you sustained.
- Handle all the discussions and negotiations with the insurance company, making sure to go after fair compensation on your behalf.
- Ensure that all of your legal motions and documents are prepared properly and filed before the statute of limitations expires.
- Bring in the experts such as accident reconstructionists, engineers, economists, and doctors to substantiate your claims.
- Take your case to trial, if required, and work relentlessly to bring your case to a successful resolution.
If an injury because of an accident disrupted your life or the life of a loved one, do not wait any longer to get the legal help you need. Contact Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC online today, or call our firm at (504) 294-5118 and let our legal team get you the answers you need and show you how we can fight for you and your rights.