Compensatory vs Punitive Damages

Published on: 11/24/23 — In 

Courts award two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages help the plaintiff financially by covering medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. The amount depends on the severity of the injury and the defendant's ability to pay.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, punish and deter wrongdoing. They are larger and set as a public example.

However, proving malicious or egregious actions can be challenging. While compensatory damages restore the plaintiff, recovering punitive damages is difficult.

For more information, call Ktenas Injury Attorney's at 312-300-2515 and schedule a consultation with our experienced personal injury lawyers today!

What are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are given to plaintiffs for losses caused by the at-fault party's actions or omissions. These damages aim to restore the plaintiff to their original position if the negligence had not occurred. They cover medical treatments, bills, lost wages, and future costs related to the injury.

Chicago personal injury lawyer Chris Ktenas sitting in his office

Compensatory damages are also called actual damages and there are two categories of damages:

Special damages for monetary losses like medical expenses such as hospital bills and lost wages, and general damages for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Juries determine general damages for personal injury claims based on the circumstances as they are harder to calculate and vary between cases.

Types of Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are awarded to individuals to compensate for harm caused by another party's negligence. The goal is to restore the injured party's financial position before the incident. These damages cover economic and non-economic losses.

  • Economic losses include medical bills, lost wages, future expenses, and property repair costs.
  • Non-economic losses include physical pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment. Compensatory damages may also cover additional expenses if punitive action is necessary.

Medical Bills and Expenses

Compensatory damages restore a party's financial position after an injury or loss. such as medical bills, lost wages, and related expenses. Punitive damages, in contrast, aim to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar behavior. They are higher than compensatory damages and can be difficult for the plaintiff to obtain.

Property Damage

If someone damages your car or property, you can ask for compensation. There are two types of damages: compensatory and punitive damages.

  • Compensatory damages restore the value of the property. They are based on repair or replacement costs.
  • Punitive damages punish wrongdoers and discourage future bad behavior. These damages can be difficult for the person seeking compensation because they are usually higher than compensatory damages.

Loss of Enjoyment and Quality of Life

Compensatory damages are pursued when someone is injured due to another's negligence or intentional acts. These damages aim to restore the injured party by covering medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. They make up for the losses suffered.

a personal injury lawyer's notebook on a desk next to a gavel

On the other hand, punitive damages punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior. Compensatory damages can include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and loss of enjoyment or quality of life. Punitive damages are typically higher but harder to recover for the plaintiff.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a type of damage that is commonly sought in personal injury or wrongful death claims. Its purpose is to provide compensation for the loss of companionship, services, and affection that are typically associated with a close family relationship.

Loss of consortium damages are generally viewed as compensatory, as they aim to return the plaintiff to their original circumstances before experiencing any harm.

Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish

Compensatory and punitive damages are legal recourse for those who have been wronged. Emotional distress and mental anguish can be considered for both types.

Compensatory damages compensate for losses like physical injury, emotional trauma, and harm.

Punitive damages punish the wrongdoer and deter future behavior. Recovering punitive damages can be difficult as they are usually higher than compensatory damages.

What are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are sought by plaintiffs in civil lawsuits. They are meant for punishing defendants and deterring similar behavior in the future. These damages go beyond compensating the plaintiff and do not have a fixed amount. The judge or jury decides the amount based on the case's circumstances.

Types of Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are extra compensation given to a plaintiff in a civil suit. They go beyond the amount of compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter them from similar behavior in the future.

a personal injury lawyer holding paperwork

Sometimes, punitive damages can be so large that they bankrupt an individual or company. The type of punitive damages awarded depends on the defendant's conduct and the extent of the damage caused. Common types include fines, jail time, and company dissolution. In some cases, punitive damages can exceed compensatory damages.

Exemplary Damages

Exemplary damages are awarded by the court in addition to compensatory damages. They are meant to punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior. Exemplary damages are given when there is evidence of malicious or grossly negligent conduct. The amount of exemplary damages depends on the harm caused by the defendant.

Non-Economic Losses

Non-economic losses are damages that do not involve any financial or monetary loss. These damages are typically subjective and challenging to measure, as they are based on an individual's emotions and feelings.

Examples of non-economic losses may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionships, physical impairment or disability, and damage to reputation.

Award Limits for Punitive Damages

Punitive damages award limits vary from state to state based on state law. In most states, punitive damages range from three to five times the amount of compensatory damages.

To address the rising cost of litigation, many states have implemented caps on punitive damages awards. The Supreme Court has also ruled that extremely high punitive damage awards may be unconstitutional if they are considered "grossly excessive" for the harm suffered by the plaintiff.

Determining Faulty Party in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

To determine fault in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent or responsible for their injuries. The court considers factors such as the actions of each party before the incident and the associated risks. Both parties may be partially at fault in some cases.

a personal injury claim form with a pencil

The plaintiff has the responsibility of proving their case and showing that the defendant's actions caused their injuries. If successful, the plaintiff may receive compensatory and punitive damages.

Physical Evidence and Negligent Behavior

Physical evidence is important for determining negligence. Negligence happens when someone doesn't act as carefully as they should. Physical evidence can prove negligence and liability for harm or losses. When negligence is proven, compensatory damages may be awarded to the plaintiff. Punitive damages may also be given in cases involving serious misconduct or harm caused by the defendant.

Ktenas Injury Attorneys are Here to Fight For You!

At Ktenas Injury Attorneys, we understand the challenges of being injured due to someone else's negligence. Our experienced team is here to fight for your compensation.

There are two types of damages available: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages restore the plaintiff to their previous state, while punitive damages punish the defendant. We will review your case and explain which damages you may be eligible for. Contact us today for a free consultation.