In a personal injury case, the injured party can seek to recover damages from the defendant. The two most common types of damages that a plaintiff may be entitled to are compensatory and punitive damages.
Sometimes referred to as actual damages, compensatory damages are the most common type of damages that a court will award a plaintiff. They are intended to compensate the injured party for their loss. For example, if someone accidentally hits a person with their car, that injured person might accrue medical expenses. A court might choose to award compensatory damages to help the plaintiff regain the money lost.
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Proving Compensatory Damages
In order to be awarded compensatory damages, a plaintiff must prove that they suffered some loss, the amount of loss, and that this loss was caused by the defendant’s actions. There are many reasons that compensatory damages may be awarded. A plaintiff may seek to recover damages for current and future medical expenses. They may also have lost wages for the time they were unable to work and the continuing time that they will be unable to work. They may have sought to recover for their pain and suffering and emotional trauma. In some cases a defendant may have only damaged property that needs to be repaired. In other cases their actions can have more severe consequences such as a loss of enjoyment of life or damaged relationships.
Punitive damages are a lot more rare in civil cases. Punitive damages, as the name suggests, are intended to punish the defendant and act as a deterrent for their actions. Punitive damages accompany compensatory damages in a civil suit. They tend to only be available when the defendant’s actions are reckless. For example, if a driver hits a pedestrian with his car, the pedestrian might recover compensatory damages for their medical expenses, but if the driver was also driving under the influence of alcohol, punitive damages might be included as well to deter others from driving drunk.
Calculating Punitive Damages
The amount of damages in personal injury cases is dependent on a few factors. Courts tend to take the gravity of the plaintiff’s injuries into account as well as the severity of the negligence displayed by the defendant. In most cases where negligence is the cause of the injury, the court will award compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are equal to the current expenses added to the expected future expenses. Calculating punitive damages is much more difficult. Not all civil cases have punitive damages. They are usually reserved only for cases where the defendant’s behavior was worthy of punishment. Usually these are cases where the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless. In Florida, there are limits to the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. Punitive damages can neither exceed $500,000 nor three times the compensatory damages. For people who are injured and wish to file suit, hiring an attorney might be the best course of action to help them analyze their case and identify what kinds of damages they should seek to recover.