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Types of Personal Injury Settlements: Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

Different Types of Personal Injury Settlements

Proving negligence is the number one goal of any personal injury lawsuit. Once negligence has been proven, causation is the next aspect of the case that must be proven. The plaintiff is responsible for showing how the defendant’s negligence led to their injuries. Once both negligence and causation have been proven, a determination for damages can be made.

To get your claim into court and have the opportunity to recover damages based upon negligence and causation in your case, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer.

About Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Damages are monetary awards meant to compensate the victim for his or her injuries, property damage and lost wages. Damages are classified as one of two primary types that may be recovered following a successful personal injury lawsuit. Those types are compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are always part of a personal injury lawsuit. These damages are intended to compensate the victim and make them “whole.” Punitive damages are not always awarded in these cases, being reserved for the most erogenous of carelessness or negligence.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are the outcome of a successful personal injury lawsuit. This monetary award compensates the victim for actual injuries and losses suffered due to the accident. Compensatory damages will be sought by a personal injury lawyer whenever the plaintiff has been injured to help restore them to their financial state of before the accident, prior to all of the expenses incurred due to high medical bills and other costs.

Compensatory damages are divided into two sub-types, tangible losses and intangible losses. Economic compensatory damages are tangible losses that cost the victim money, leading to the personal injury lawsuit. These damages are among the easiest to determine.

Economic compensatory damages may include:

  • Medical treatment expenses incurred after the accident, including emergency department, pharmacy and other medical service costs
  • Loss of income suffered when an injured plaintiff is unable to return to work after the accident, including past income lost and the amount of future income that is expected to be lost due to the injuries
  • Property loss due to the accident, including the vehicle, personal items, clothing and other material possessions damaged in the accident
  • Legal fees, including court costs, attorney fees, travel costs, missed work and other amounts incurred by the victim when he or she pursues the personal injury case to gain compensation

Non-economic compensatory damages are hard to calculate, as they are effects on quality of life after the accident. These are intangible losses suffered by a plaintiff, those which may not have a receipt. These damages are more difficult to gain and require the skill and experience of a personal injury lawyer in court.

Non-economic compensatory damages may include:

  • Pain and suffering, with pain being one of the most difficult losses to prove and calculate. Because injuries can endure for years and lead to future discomfort and suffering, these damages are meant to help compensate the victim for that suffering, inconvenience and lifestyle changes expected. Impairment and physical disfigurement are part of pain and suffering damages.
  • Emotional distress, including fear, anxiety, sleeplessness and other suffering that commonly occurs after an accident. An accident can change the victim plaintiff’s world view, lifestyle and take away enjoyment of daily activities and hobbies, inciting apprehension due to trauma.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages in a personal injury case are those awarded to a plaintiff as a supplement to compensatory damages. When another party – a driver, mechanic, manufacturer, retailer, other individual or entity – are found to be at fault for the accident, the court may award punitive damages as a harsher punishment than compensatory damages can deliver to the defendant. Not every personal injury case qualifies for punitive damages, nor will the court always award this compensation when it is sought.

For punitive damages to be awarded, the negligent party in the case must have shown a willful disregard for the safety and health of others. Car accidents are not always due to such disregard and may have merely been the result of accidental behaviors or “happenstance.” But when a party is willful in their conduct that led to the accident, their actions will potentially lead to punitive damages.

You Need a Personal Injury Attorney

For any personal injury case, it is always advisable to rely upon the experience and skill of a personal injury attorney. It can be difficult to prove fault in these cases and both compensatory and punitive damages rely upon proving such fault.

If you have been in an auto accident or your loved one has suffered injuries or death due to such an accident, call Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law Accident Law now at 604.254.2701 for a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your case.


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