What Are Compensatory Damages in Personal Injury Claims?
The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is for the plaintiff to seek damages, or financial compensation, for their injuries and losses occurred because of that injury. These damages, called compensatory damages, are awarded in personal injury lawsuits. Depending on the circumstances of the personal injury claim, other economic damages may be awarded. Here, the personal injury attorneys at Patterson Legal Group explain how compensatory damages are awarded.
Types of Compensatory Damages
Compensatory damages are payments made to the plaintiff as the result of a personal injury claim. Personal injury attorneys seek compensatory damages, which pay for both losses and any injuries that were experienced. The purpose of compensatory damages is to award the injured party for their financial losses due to the accident. Your personal injury attorney will need to prove that the defendant’s negligence directly resulted in the plaintiff’s loss before the court can award compensatory damages.
For instance, if you are injured in a car accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you obtain compensation from the defendant’s insurance company to cover losses. In order to receive compensatory damages, you must provide evidence that the defendant’s actions resulted in the losses. Based on the evidence, either one or both types of compensatory damages will be awarded. The types of compensatory damages include special and general damages.
Special damages are payments made for the losses caused by the accident. The amount reflects the value of the property or monetary losses due to the accident and resulting injuries. Based on evidence, a judge or jury may order a defendant to pay you back for any out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident and injuries. Examples of special damages include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Medication costs
- Medical equipment
- Rehabilitation and physical therapies
- Property damage
General damages repay the victim for intangible or non-economic losses. The jury in a personal injury case determines the amount of general damages to be awarded based on the evidence presented in the case. These are more difficult to calculate than special damages. General damages might include:
- Pain and suffering
- Future lost earnings capacity
- Loss of consortium
- Estimated future medical bills
What Is the Difference Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages?
In some personal injury cases, along with compensatory damages, punitive damages can also be awarded depending on the situation. Punitive damages are intended to serve as punishment for the offender for criminal or malicious actions and as a way to deter them from preventing future crimes.
An example of a personal injury case where punitive damages are likely would be a wrongful death in a drunk driving accident. These damages are not as common as compensatory damages. Your attorney would have to demonstrate that the defendant had a careless disregard for the safety and well-being of others for a judge to award punitive damages.
The other key difference in compensatory and punitive damages is depending on your state, the amount of punitive damages is capped. On the other hand, compensatory damages are not capped in most states, but there are a few exceptions. In Missouri, compensatory damages are only capped in medical malpractice cases; the same law applies in Kansas. Before Mo. Rev. Stat. § 538.210 was passed in 2020, punitive damages were capped. According to Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-3702, punitive damages can’t be more than either the defendant’s gross annual income or, if that’s not enough, 50% of the defendant’s net worth, whichever is less.
Depending on the details of your case and injuries sustained, it is possible that you are eligible for both compensatory and punitive damages. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys today for a free case consultation.
Injured in an Accident? Contact Our Patterson Legal Group.
When you hire a personal injury attorney from Patterson Legal Group, you get an experienced legal professional that can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. Our team has proven results and over 75 years of combined experience representing injury victims in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming. With our “no win, no fee” policy, our clients do not pay unless we recover money on your behalf.
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