What is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

November 3, 2020 | Uncategorized

If you or somebody you care about has sustained an injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual, business, or entity, there may be various types of compensation available for your claim. Here, we want to discuss what types of compensation that are typically awarded in personal injury cases, including compensatory damages as well as punitive damages.

What are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are designed to compensate injury victims for the direct losses they have sustained as a result of their injuries. Generally, compensatory damages can be broken down into economic damages and non-economic damages.

  • Economic damages. These damages are going to be defined by the fact that they are relatively simple to calculate (these are often referred to as calculable damages). By that, we mean that there will be bills and receipts associated with the costs borne to the personal injury victim in these situations. The most common types of economic damages available to injury victims include the following:
    • All medical expenses related to the injury
    • Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
    • Lost income if a victim cannot work
    • General household out-of-pocket expenses
    • The costs of modifying homes or vehicles
    • Property damage expenses
  • Non-economic damages. These damages are going to be a bit harder to calculate than the economic costs mentioned above. Non-economic damages typically referred to the pain and suffering an injury victim experiences. Some of the most common types of pain and suffering that victims receive compensation for include the following:
    • Physical pain
    • Mental suffering
    • Loss of enjoyment of life
    • Disfigurement
    • Physical impairment
    • Loss of consortium for espouse
    • Emotional distress

What are Punitive Damages?

In some injury cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. In general, personal injury cases revolve around proving the negligence of the alleged at-fault party. This negligence can include carelessness or a person acting in a way (or failing to act in a way) that could cause harm to another. However, there are times when the conduct of the alleged negligent party is so egregious that punitive damages may be awarded.

Also called exemplary damages, these damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and to send a signal to others that the type of behavior displayed in this case is not acceptable. In Texas, punitive damages can generally not reach a value of more than two times the economic damages awarded to a victim plus the amount equal to their award for non-economic damages (up to $750,000). In cases where economic damages are not awarded to a victim, punitive damages cannot be more than $200,000.

Can Compensatory & Punitive Damages Be Awarded to the Same Victim?

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in an accident caused by the careless or negligent actions of another driver, you may be entitled to various types of compensation. This includes all of the compensatory damages mentioned above as well as any possible punitive damages awarded in the case. Yes, a car accident victim, and other injured parties, could be awarded both compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. There is no law that says these damages cannot both be awarded to the victim.