Types of Personal Injury Damages: Compensatory and Punitive
By Norman Younker on March 20, 2014
“How much is my case worth?” Almost invariably, that is one of the first questions our personal injury attorneys are asked by prospective clients during their initial consultations. It’s a fair question, of course; when a person is injured and faced with unexpected bills and lost wages, it’s reasonable to wonder whether he or she will be able to obtain the compensation necessary to cover these expenses. In answering this question, our personal injury attorneys explain the concept of damages, including the types of damages allowed under the law and which specific damages the injured party may be entitled to under the circumstances.
So how much will your case be worth? During your case evaluation at our law offices serving Provo, personal injury damages will be discussed in detail so that you can make informed, confident decisions about how to proceed.
What Are Damages?
The term “damages” refers to the monetary compensation obtained, whether through a settlement or a jury award, to cover the losses and expenses sustained by the plaintiff as a result of any injury caused by the negligence of the defendant. “Damages” is not synonymous with “damage,” although many legal professionals confuse the two terms. Legal damages can always be expressed in dollar amounts.
There are two basic types of damages in personal injury law: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Of the two types of damages, compensatory damages are, by far, the more commonly awarded. Compensatory damages include compensation for the actual economic and non-economic losses that can be proven to have resulted from an injury. The purpose behind the awarding of compensatory damages is to return the injured victim to the financial state that he or she would have been in if not for the injury, or as close to that state as can be managed.
Compensatory damages can further be divided into two categories: special and general. In this context, “special” is closer in meaning to “specific” and refers to those losses and expenses that can be quantified according to dollar amounts. Common special damages include:
- Hospital and doctor’s bills
- Medication and therapy expenses
- Property damage
- Cost of rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Funeral costs (in the event of wrongful death)
- Lost benefits (in the event of wrongful death)
Conversely, general damages include compensation for consequences of an injury that cannot be expressed in dollar amounts. Common general damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of support (in the event of wrongful death)
- Loss of consortium (in the event of wrongful death)
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are awarded comparatively rarely. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are meant not to make the plaintiff whole again but to punish the defendant for particularly wrongful acts of negligence, bordering on malice. Most accidents don’t involve the sort of near-criminal disregard for the wellbeing of others that prompts judges to award punitive damages; nonetheless, if we feel it is appropriate, our auto accident attorneys will ask for punitive damages and leave the matter to the court.
For further information about damages or to arrange for an evaluation of your personal injury claim, please contact Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC today.
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They were extremely knowledgeable, extremely helpful experts. The team helped me with all aspects of my case, including medical and financial, and understood that it affected more than me but also my family.- Jill S.