Compensatory and Punitive Damages: Which Can You Seek?

After being injured in an accident and contacting a lawyer about seeking compensation, you might start to hear words and phrases you don’t understand. For example, what are compensatory and punitive damages? Are they different? Which can you seek? The following should help you understand the basics.

Compensatory Damages

Injuries and property damage that you have to pay for in order to fix something are considered compensatory damages. You’re basically seeking compensation for the amount you would otherwise have to pay on your own. Almost every cost associated with your injury could be totaled to come up with the amount of compensatory damages you could seek.

Punitive Damages

When a judge feels compensatory damages don’t adequately cover the cost of what has happened to you — which is often largely due to how the injuries occurred — he or she may award punitive damages. These are damages awarded to the victim, but meant to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are typically awarded in situations where the defendant acted particularly negligent or reckless.

Examples of Each

When wondering which type of damages you can seek, you might start with some examples that will give you an idea of what your case includes. Some examples of compensatory damages include medical bills resulting from your injuries, lost wages due to time missed at work, costs for property damage, and even pain and suffering. Some examples of when punitive damages may be awarded include:

  • If you were hit by a drunk driver.
  • If someone targeted you based on race or religion.
  • If a surgeon skipped sleep to take a case that would have otherwise gone to another surgeon.
  • If someone abused a nursing home resident.
  • If a caretaker knew a child had a food allergy, but fed that particular food item to the child anyway.

Seeking Both

In many cases of personal injury, a plaintiff can seek both compensatory and punitive damages. In other cases, only compensatory can be sought. While punitive damages are typically not awarded without compensatory damages, it is possible to receive punitive damages if the compensatory amount wasn’t very much. Your lawyer can help you determine if your case qualifies for one or both.

Contacting a Lawyer to Begin Your Case

When someone is injured due to the negligence of another individual or entity, it’s important the responsible party is held accountable. Contact an attorney, like a personal injury attorney from Rispoli & Borneo, P.C., today to begin a case that could result in a reward of compensatory and punitive damages.