Understanding the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages

If you sustain damages due to the negligence of another party, you are eligible for compensation. This remuneration, referred to as damages, is designed to compensate for things such as personal injury, lost income, medical bills, property damage, or any harm resulting from the negligence at issue in the case. Apart from compensating the plaintiff, damages can also be used to discourage other people from engaging in the same behavior that led to the damages being awarded. The two main types of damages offered by the courts are compensatory and punitive. Here is a brief introduction to the two.

Compensatory damages

As the name suggests, compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for your loss. They are also known as actual damages and are sometimes regarded as the primary damages that can be awarded by a civil court. In compensatory damages, the plaintiff must show that the incident in question caused him or her to suffer some form of loss. Some of the circumstances in which such damages can be awarded include property damage, bodily harm, and loss of income.

If you were involved in a car accident, for instance, you may claim compensatory damages for medical bills, car repair, and loss of income that resulted from the time taken off work to treat your injuries. However, you need to prove that the defendant was responsible for the loss and the extent of the damage in question.

Punitive damages

Punitive damages are a little more complicated than compensatory damages. They are a monetary award that must be paid to the plaintiff along with any compensatory damages that might have been given. The idea is basically to punish the defendant for negligent behavior. As such, punitive damages are usually only awarded in instances where the conduct of the defendant was in conscious disregard for the safety of others and/or reckless.

In the event of a car accident, the plaintiff could pursue punitive damages if he or she can prove that the defendant caused the accident as a result of, say, being intoxicated while driving. In addition to discouraging similar behavior in the future, punitive damages are also used to send a message to the society at large. When punishing negligent or reckless behavior, the courts usually indicate that such type of conduct will not be tolerated and could result in monetary consequences.

Plaintiffs use damages to seek justice for actions committed against them, as well as to ensure that the offending party does not go unpunished for their reckless behavior. Large awards for punitive damages often grab the media’s attention and may stir up some controversy, but this system is important to ensure a fair justice process for anyone who has been a victim of acts that are beyond their control.

If you are looking for a trained and experienced attorney to advise or represent you in a civil lawsuit, Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC has got you covered. We’ll walk you through your case as thoroughly as possible and help you understand what your options are. Contact us now at 636-946-6886.

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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