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Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases

When you suffer harm because of the actions of someone else, you have the right to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the facts of the case, you may be able to receive a settlement for 2 types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. What is the difference between these damages, and how do you determine your eligibility for each of them?

Understanding the Difference Between Compensatory & Punitive Damages

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are most commonly awarded to those filing personal injury claims. They are designed to compensate you for financial losses you have incurred as a result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness.

There are 2 types of compensatory damages - economic and non-economic:

  1. Economic damages
    1. Past, present, and expected future medical expenses
    2. Lost wages from time off work
    3. Property damage (such as vehicle repairs and replacement of personal property items)
    4. Legal fees and court costs
  2. Non-economic damages
    1. Emotional distress (such as anxiety and panic attacks)
    2. Pain and suffering (such as the long-term physical effects of an injury)
    3. Loss of enjoyment of life
    4. Loss of companionship or consortium

In general, economic damages are easy to measure and involve straightforward calculations. However, non-economic damages are unmeasurable. Insurance companies will often use a number between 1 and 5 to multiply by the economic damages amount to determine a settlement for non-economic damages.

Compensatory damages are often awarded to plaintiffs who were injured by the negligence or carelessness of others. These cases often involve car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and other situations caused by a negligent individual or company. While many cases are settled out of court through negotiation, it may be necessary to use litigation if the insurance company disputes your claim.

Punitive Damages

While compensatory damages are designed to compensate victims for financial losses, punitive damages are designed to punish defendants. These damages are much rarer, because they are only granted in cases where the defendant displayed reckless, egregious, or criminal behavior. For example, if you are injured by a drunk driver, the court may grant you punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. This is designed to rebuke the at-fault party for malicious, fraudulent, or otherwise wrongful actions.

Reliable & Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Corpus Christi

Sico Hoelscher Harris & Braugh LLP provides diligent representation to injured clients. If you suffered financial loss from the negligent or reckless actions of someone else, our Corpus Christi personal injury lawyers are ready to help. We will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence, and will help determine a fair settlement for your injuries. If the defendant acted egregiously or maliciously, we will fight on your behalf to pursue justice.

We offer free consultations for your convenience. Contact us today to discuss your case with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.