If you’ve been injured, you may be entitled to compensatory or punitive damages.
But what’s the difference?
Often in personal injury cases, the victim may be entitled to compensation for numerous damages, and understanding the differences in those damages can be confusing at best. In short, there are generally two types of damages that a victim is entitled to: compensatory and punitive.
Below, we’ll discuss the differences between the two, and the situations in which each may be awarded.
Compensatory Damages: Compensatory damages are the most common damages awarded in personal injury cases. These damages, as their name suggests, are used to compensate the victim for his or her losses associated with the injury. These damages can cover losses from:
- Current and projected medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Lost wages, both current and projected
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Damaged relationships
- Property damage
In addition, if a wrongful death is involved, the victim’s family may be entitled to other sorts of compensatory damages including funds to cover funeral costs, loss of companionship, and loss of projected earnings.
Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are less common, and are awarded in conjunction with compensatory damages. They’re used mostly to punish the guilty party for exhibiting gross negligence or taking part in illegal activities that led to the accident in question. An example of this sort of behavior would be drunk driving. It is the belief that if the defendant is required to pay punitive damages, it will deter others from acting in a similar way. In addition to punitive damages, the guilty party may also be criminally charged if their actions were illegal.
With personal injury cases, deciding upon damages depends on several factors. The severity of the victim’s injuries as well as the amount of negligence exhibited by the defendant are both considered when determining which damages are due and how much those damages are. If negligence is proved and a victim’s injuries are a direct result, compensatory damages are awarded. The amount of compensatory damages due can be calculated by adding up actual and estimated expenses.
Punitive damages are a bit more difficult. Firstly, not every personal injury case warrants punitive damages. As stated above, the defendant must have exhibited gross negligence or a willful disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others at the time of the accident. The defendant’s actions and their respective severity are the determining factors in deciding on whether punitive damages are due. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not determined by adding up expenses; instead, it is up to the court’s discretion to decide how much should be paid.
The state of Florida currently does not have a damage limit for compensatory damages in personal injury cases; however, under Florida law, there are limitations in place in order to keep punitive damages from becoming excessive.
Except for specific circumstances, punitive damages are not permitted to exceed either three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to a victim or $500,000.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, do not hesitate to seek legal help. Whether it’s a car accident, motorcycle accident, or even a slip and fall, our expert Tampa attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo are prepared with the experience and professionalism needed to take on your case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you receive the best possible outcome in your case.