The Differences Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages

Differences Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages?

Compensatory Damages vs Punitive Damages

If you or someone you love is injured due to another party’s negligence or unlawful conduct, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury covers a wide variety of matters, such as auto accidents, dog bites, medical malpractice, and even wrongful death.

In a personal injury case, an injured victim seeks compensation for their losses. The legal term used to describe these losses is “compensatory damages.” However, in addition to receiving compensatory damages, an injured victim or surviving family member may be awarded punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are a distinct type of damages that are only available in a few situations.

Below, we will take a look at both compensatory damages and punitive damages and explain what they are, when they apply, and how their value is calculated.

Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Compensatory damages are, just as the name implies – the damages a plaintiff receives to compensate them for the losses that he or she incurred. This type of compensation is only awarded in civil cases. Ohio courts break compensatory damages down into two categories: Economic damages and general damages. If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to understand both special and general damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to the expenses that are incurred as a result of injuries. Economic damages aim to provide a monetary award to reimburse you for what you lost, or will incur or lose in the future, and nothing more. When many people think of expenses related to an injury, they think of medical expenses. However, the costs of an injury go far beyond medical costs. Examples of economic damages awarded in a personal injury case include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Medical equipment
  • Prescriptions
  • Accommodations for your disability
  • Live-in or nursing home care
  • Domestic services
  • Rehabilitation expenses, such as physical therapy costs
  • Lost earnings
  • Costs to repair or replace damaged property
  • Transportation
  • Funeral and burial expenses

General Damages

In a personal injury case, some losses are apparent. However, some effects of an accident are not quite as obvious. In contrast to economic damages, noneconomic, or general damages, are much more complex and subjective. They are intangible losses that do not have an exact dollar amount and are much more challenging to prove. General damages address a wide range of losses, including:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Disfigurement
  • Impairment
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship (generally awarded to family members in a wrongful death case)

Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case

While compensatory damages are meant to compensate a victim for their losses, punitive damages are awarded to a plaintiff as a way to punish the irresponsible party. Also known as “exemplary damages,” these awards also serve as an example to discourage the defendant from behaving that way in the future, and perhaps more so, to prevent others from acting in the same manner.

Punitive damages are not tied to a tangible injury, nor are they awarded to compensate the victim for a specific loss. Courts award punitive damages when they feel the defendant’s actions were especially harmful, grossly negligent, or intentional.

Calculating Punitive Damages

There is a lot of controversy over what punitive damage values are appropriate and how that appropriate amount should be calculated. Generally, the following is taken into consideration when determining the total value:

  • The nature and severity of the defendant’s actions
  • The defendant’s financial situation
  • The level of harm caused by the defendant’s actions

Punitive damages must be relatively proportionate to the victim’s compensatory damages. In Ohio, the cap on punitive damages is two times the compensatory damages, up to a maximum of $350,000.

Speak with a Qualified Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured due to another person’s negligent or intentional actions, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in Ohio. With over 100 years of collective experience, our attorneys will provide you with skilled and dedicated legal representation. To make sound legal advice available to everyone, we offer a free initial consultation to all of our potential personal injury clients. Our personal injury lawyers will explain your legal options during your consultation, and help you determine your next step. Contact Slater & Zurz today to schedule your FREE, no-obligation consultation. Call 888.534.4850.