What is the Difference Between Punitive and Compensatory Damages?

If you have been hurt due to the negligence of another person, then personal injury law states you can take them to court. Therein, if negligence can be proved, you can recover compensation for any injuries or damage to your property that you sustained from the accident. However, what most people don’t realize is that there is actually two types of compensation that you can recover during a personal injury case, compensatory and punitive. Before you begin your case, it is important to know the difference between them so you can know exactly what to fight for.

Compensatory Damages

When you think of the funds you require after an accident to pay your medical bills or fix up your car, you are thinking of compensatory damages. In personal injury cases, you definitely won’t be getting rich from compensatory damages. Instead, they are paid out to help make you whole from the loss after the accident. The reason personal injury law exists is that if someone else caused an accident and caused you harm, the law says it is not fair that you should have to pay for it. With compensatory damages, you don’t. You won’t make a profit from the accident, but you won’t have to pay the medical bills either.

There is some misconception that if people get hurt in an accident, they have somehow found a cash cow, but this is simply not true. In most personal injury cases, those that were injured will be compensated and won’t be any better off than they were. The key is that you don’t want to come out worse off after a personal injury settlement.

Punitive Damages

In personal injury cases, most people are very focused on compensatory damages, and that is as they should be. However, you may also get an award of punitive damages if your case goes to court. Punitive damages are meant to punish. Often you pursue compensatory damages, and if the court sees that amount as somehow inadequate, they can add punitive damages on top of it. In essence, punitive damages are awarded to send a message to the negligent party – don’t do that again.

If you were, for example, involved in a drunk driving accident. Your personal injury case, held separate from the criminal DUI case, will seek compensatory damages for what was damaged. The judge may also see the drunk driver and seek to further punish them by adding punitive damages on top so they think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking again.

Punitive damages just aren’t for accidents of a criminal nature. A judge could be sympathetic to any accident and add on punitive damages. It is for this and many other reasons that most insurance companies want to keep personal injury cases out of court. However, you also should not try to push a personal injury case to court just because you hope for punitive damages either. The court process is long, expensive, and if you can get all your damages settled fairly out of court, then you should.

Need Help?

Have you been in accident in the Los Angeles area? Then you shouldn’t just pay for your medical bills and other damages out of your own pocket. Personal injury law and the compensatory damages that you can recover exist for just that reason – so innocent people don’t get stuck with the bill after an accident that is not their fault. If you have been in an accident and need help getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries, contact us today. Let the Law Office of Freeman and Freeman fight for you to make sure you aren’t paying for your injuries out of your own pocket.

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