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Know the Difference between Punitive and Compensatory Damages

Know the Difference between Punitive and Compensatory DamagesLegal terminology can be difficult to grasp if you aren't familiar with the law, but it's important to know the differences between certain terms. That's especially true if it's relevant to your case. When it comes to personal injury cases, people will often hear about compensatory and punitive damages, but the two are very distinct and shouldn't be confused with one another.


As the name implies, compensatory damages are paid in order to compensate for something else. Precisely what and the amount will vary from one instance to the next. As a general rule of thumb, if you have a bill or expense in relation to the personal injury, it will fall under compensatory damages. This includes medical bills or property damage. If a vehicle was damaged, repairing it or replacing it would be compensation for your loss and expense. Medical bills are one of the most common and perhaps obvious examples, but you may also receive compensation for lost wages, loss of earning potential, a reduction in quality of life, or pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Certain injuries may result in the loss of consortium, or cause harm to your relationships with your spouse or children.

It's always recommended that you discuss the specifics with your attorney. Your legal counsel will be able to walk you through the details that are pertinent to your case. Be sure to retain any paperwork that you have. Don't simply assume that a document is unimportant and don't throw anything away. The better documented your injuries and the consequences of those injuries, the stronger a case you may have. Your lawyer will do everything that he or she can to defend your rights and see that you receive the compensation that you deserve, but they need the correct information and paperwork to make that happen.


Know the Difference between Punitive and Compensatory DamagesYou can think of punitive damages as a form of punishment. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the at-fault party, especially when there was outrageous negligence or illegal activity that resulted in or contributed to the harm of someone else. Sometimes, negligence or illegal activities will entail imprisonment, but punitive damages can be awarded even if the at-fault party doesn't go to prison. Punitive damages may be used as a way to make an example of a company or individual. Although punitive damages aren't exceptionally common, they may be appropriate if the at-fault party was willfully negligent, or there was gross carelessness that caused injury to someone else.

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not calculated based on bills or lost wages. Instead, punitive damages are in addition to any compensatory damages that are awarded. On some occasions, the party in question could face criminal prosecution, but as noted above, that needn't be true in every instance. The degree of punitive damages is sometimes used by the court as a way to demonstrate the disdain that the court holds for the negligence of the responsible party. Although punitive damages shouldn't be assumed, they can substantial.

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