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Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

By Butler Prather LLP on August 20, 2018

When one person or party causes damage, injury, or financial harm to another party, the victim can pursue legal action in the form of a personal injury lawsuit to recover his or her losses. Plaintiffs in civil lawsuits can potentially receive two types of damages: Compensatory and Punitive damages. Anyone preparing for a civil lawsuit should know the differences between these two types of compensation and what factors in a case will influence their amounts. You should ask an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney about what damages and compensation you could seek for your case.

What are Considered Compensatory Damages in Georgia?

The compensatory damages in a civil lawsuit can be defined to include virtually any type of economic damage resulting from negligence. These damages fall into four broad categories, including:

  • Property Damage
  • Lost Income
  • Medical Expenses
  • Pain & Suffering

The amount a plaintiff receives in compensatory damages reflects the extent of the damage done by the defendant. For example, a plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit may receive compensatory damages for his or her medical expenses resulting from the crash as well as the cost of repairing or replacing his or her vehicle. Other compensatory damages may include lost wages if the plaintiff had to miss work due to his or her injuries. In extreme cases, a plaintiff can secure lost future income as well if a defendant’s actions caused permanent damage that limits the plaintiff’s earning potential.

The category “Pain & Suffering” describes the physical pain, emotional distress, and/or mental suffering resulting from a negligent defendant’s actions. This is a more difficult item to monetize, so the amount a plaintiff receives in pain and suffering damages typically reflects the severity of his or her injuries, time spent in recovery, and potential for future complications. For example, a car accident resulting in a broken arm and a concussion could lead to pain and suffering damages for the long-term pain of the healing limb as well as headaches or other neurological complications the concussion caused. An injury that leads to amputation will likely lead to much more in pain and suffering damages due to the significantly higher physical and psychological toll such an injury takes on a victim.

What’s the Difference Between Punitive and Compensatory Damages?

Some plaintiffs may receive additional compensation beyond compensatory damages in the form of punitive damages. As the name implies, punitive damages exist to punish a defendant and discourage him or her and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Many states place caps or limits on punitive damages for certain types of cases. Generally, the amount a plaintiff can potentially receive in punitive damages depends on the severity of the defendant’s behavior and the defendant’s overall financial status. A wealthy defendant stands to lose much more in punitive damages than a defendant with minimal financial assets.

What Compensatory Damages Can I Receive for My Case?

If you are expecting a civil lawsuit soon, it’s wise to have some idea of the compensation you could receive before going through with the lawsuit. In some cases, the available compensation will be less than the cost of hiring and paying for an attorney, resulting in a net loss for the plaintiff. It’s vital to find a reliable personal injury attorney with a strong track record of successful cases to consult about your case.

When it comes to determining what type of compensatory damages you can receive, it’s vital to remember that you can only sue for damages resulting from the defendant’s negligence. Your attorney will likely advise you to retain copies of all documentation and correspondence related to your incident to establish a strong record of your damages. The court generally requires a defendant to repay compensatory damages one to one, so having clear evidence of the extent of these damages is vital. When it comes to pain and suffering, your attorney will likely retain expert witnesses with relevant medical backgrounds who can testify as to your condition and the effects of the defendant’s negligence.

Seek Legal Council about Your Case

If you are unsure about what types of compensation may be available to you in a civil lawsuit, speak with a reliable and experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney. He or she should be able to review your case and let you know what a lawsuit could yield as well as your chances of securing different types of compensation. Call for a free consultation today! (404) 321-1700

Posted in: Personal Injury

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