Dealing with any accidental injury can be stressful—and the stress increases when the victim knows the accident was avoidable, if someone else had only exercised reasonable care. Particularly in the case of serious injuries, it is common to want to see the negligent parties punished for their acts. While injury victims can generally pursue compensatory damages for a variety of expenses related to their injuries, it is also sometimes possible to pursue punitive damages.
California State University offers a detailed explanation of the differences between compensatory and punitive damages. In general, the difference between the two pertains to the nature of the act that caused injury, as follows:
- Compensatory damages pay injury victims for all costs related to their injuries. In addition to past, current, and future anticipated medical expenses, these can include, but are not limited to, time lost from work, loss of earnings ability due to a permanent disability, costs related to personal and family care during recovery, or even pain and suffering
- Punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, only apply in certain types of situations. As the name implies, the intent of these damages is to punish defendants for reprehensible behavior, and deter them from repeating similar offenses in the future. One example is when a defendant commits a crime that causes injury. While the defendant answers for the act in criminal court, victims can sue in civil court. Moreover, the criminal court decision has no bearing on the civil court decision—the two cases are separate and distinct
It probably seems clear that punitive damages do not make sense in most cases unless the liable party performed a willful act that caused your injury. However, compensatory damages can provide the funds you need to avoid out-of-pocket expenses, even if serious injuries affect the rest of your life.
In and around Indiana as early as your initial consultation, an experienced Phildadelphia personal injury attorney can often accurately predict the compensation you can expect for your case—whether you pursue compensation from insurance claims, an out-of-court settlement, or a jury trial. In addition, your attorney can determine if punitive damages make sense.