The Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages
compensatory and punitive damages being awarded

The Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

When a person files a personal injury claim, the goal is to receive the compensation that they need after sustaining injuries because of another person. The type of damages that can be received in negligence claims are called “compensatory damages.”

Negligence claims seeking compensatory damages can arise in almost any setting, from car accidents to medical malpractice. In other words, if someone has been injured by another person in a preventable accident or event, chances are they may be able to seek compensatory damages if there has been negligence.

On the other hand, where the conduct that caused the harm was reckless or intentional, a person may receive “punitive damages” from the wrongdoer. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter him or her and others from future like conduct.

Thus, there are two kinds of damages that can be awarded to a victim depending on the circumstances,  “compensatory damages” and “punitive damages.”

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages describe things a person needs to make them whole again after the incident. They include such items as reimbursement for out-of pocket costs and losses they accrued because of their accident. Compensatory damages include the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Property damage

Compensatory damages are commonly associated with physical injuries, and they can also include compensation for one’s pain and suffering associated with their injuries. They can also include injuries that are less obvious such as emotional distress caused by the accident.

For example, a person might be able to receive compensation because of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms stemming from the event.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are very different from compensatory damages. They are also referred to as “exemplary” damages. When someone seeks punitive damages, they’re seeking compensation that’s meant to serve as punishment for the other party’s outrageous behavior.

Punitive damages are sought when a person’s behavior was more than negligent and rises to the level of reckless or intentional. Punitive damages are typically only awarded in cases where a defendant’s behavior was extremely careless or malicious.

For example, a motorist who causes an accident while driving drunk may have to pay punitive damages. These types of damages are meant to deter the defendant and others from acting in the same reckless manner that led to the accident in the first place. Punitive damages are awarded when the courts and juries decide that the conduct is more than simply negligent.

Contact Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. Today

Do you have questions about the difference between compensatory and punitive damages? Our experienced team at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. can help. Contact us today.