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If you were seriously injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to significant compensation for your damages. Compensatory and punitive damages are the two categories of damages that may be granted in a personal injury case. Understanding the differences between these two damages can potentially help you achieve the maximum award. If you have been injured due to another party’s negligence, you should contact a determined New York City Personal Injury Lawyer who can help you fight for your rightful compensation. 

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory or actual damages are the primary type of compensation that can be recovered in a personal injury case. They are intended to compensate a plaintiff for the harm, injury, or other losses caused by another party’s tortious conduct. Compensatory damages fall into two categories: economic (special) and non-economic (general).

Economic damages are more straightforward as they represent a plaintiff’s tangible losses that can easily be quantified. They usually have a dollar amount attached to them. Some more common types of actual damages include medical expenses, rehabilitation, lost wages, property damage, household services, transportation, etc. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, tend to be more subjective and more difficult to quantify as these losses don’t involve monetary expenditures. Some of the most common types of general damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, etc.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are not awarded as frequently as compensatory damages. They are awarded in personal injury lawsuits in addition to compensatory damages when a defendant is found grossly and wantonly negligent or reckless. As the name suggests, punitive damages are awarded to punish egregious or malicious misconduct that shows a total disregard for the safety or lives of others. In civil cases, defendants can’t be punished through imprisonment, but punitive damages can serve as a deterrence measure against serious misconduct. Punitive damages may be awarded in drunk driving, product liability, distracted driving, nursing home abuse, and medical malpractice cases.

What Are the Key Differences?

The main difference between these two types of damages is that compensatory damages are awarded to benefit the plaintiff. In contrast, punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for their wrongful conduct. As mentioned above, compensatory damages are intended to provide victims with the monetary amount necessary to replace what was lost from the accident and injuries. Punitive damages are not meant to reimburse injured parties but to provide an incentive against engaging in similar wrongful behavior in the future. Ultimately, compensatory damages will not compensate for anything more than what was lost. In contrast, punitive damages can go above and beyond the losses you suffered to deter the responsible party from engaging in the same harmful actions in the future.

If you believe you should be awarded punitive and compensatory damages, please don’t hesitate to contact a talented lawyer from James Newman, P.C., who can help you prove the defendant’s gross negligence.