Understanding How Compensatory And Punitive Damages Affect Your Personal Injury Case
After an accident, things can feel confusing to those negatively affected. If you have been hurt by a careless and possibly negligent driver, you may be owed money damages. The word damages refer to the broader context of the term and not simply the damage to your car or to your body. To help remove some of the confusion about damages, read below to find out more about the most common type of damages, compensatory, and about a rarer but valuable form of damage, punitive.
Simply Compensation: Compensatory Damages
This form of damage is equal to the ways your life was negatively impacted by the accident. You might want to make a list of the ways your life has changed because of the careless driver and that list will likely be a lot like what you can expect in compensatory damages. It might be helpful to take a look at some common compensatory damages that many accident victims are owed after an auto accident.
- Medical – To gain compensation beyond a car repair, you must have a bodily injury and you must seek medical care. The reimbursement goes directly to the medical billing entity in most cases.
- Personal property – The amount needed to fix or the value of your wrecked vehicle is paid.
- Lost wages – Any lost income due to the accident is paid. Even if you use sick leave or other paid time off, it is reimbursed.
- Pain and suffering – This form of compensatory payment is a bit different in that it is often computed using a complex mathematical formula based on your medical expenses and the seriousness of your injuries.
Adding Punishment to the Award
Accident victims have little to nothing to do with punitive damages. It is the judge and jury that decides on this aspect of damages and the amount may be based on a variety of factors. It's worth understanding that accident victims can be paid for compensatory damages (as shown above) even when they don't go to court if they settle the case. Punitive damages are only possible if the case goes to court, though. This type of payment is usually meant to send a message to both the other side and the public. Accidents that can catch the eye of a jury and judge and inspire punitive damages go beyond carelessness on the part of the driver. It might be more negligent than careless, for example, if the driver that hit you was running from law enforcement, impaired by drugs or alcohol, using a phone, etc.
Find out more by speaking to your personal injury attorney.