Compensatory Damages & Punitive Damages In Car Accidents: Here’s How They Work

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If you’ve been a victim in a car accident, and your case goes to court, there are two types of damages that could be awarded: “compensatory damages” and “punitive damages.” It is important to know what each entails because it can help you determine the details you share with your lawyer about the accident. Your attorney can then take the necessary steps to investigate the incident and help you achieve the maximum compensation for your losses.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are awarded to the victim as compensation for their losses. Often, compensatory damages in car accidents are awarded in the form of reimbursements for medical bills, car repair or replacement, property damages, etc. Compensatory damages can also be awarded for future expenses in certain cases, such as if long-term medical treatment is needed. Compensatory damages can be broken down into two categories: general damages and special damages.

Special damages are based on actual, tangible expenses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Special damages tend to be easy to estimate since they are based on traceable expenses.

General damages are more subjective than special damages because they encompass future issues that can arise from an injury, such as PTSD, chronic pain and suffering, brain injuries, etc. General damages can be more challenging to determine because these types of injuries often do not emerge immediately. Since general damages can be challenging to determine, retaining an injury lawyer who can assess your case will help ensure that you receive general damages if needed.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are assessed as punishment for negligent behavior. While they are rarely awarded, punitive damages are designed to make an example of the wrongdoer and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior. Punitive damages in car accidents can be awarded to victims when the conduct of the at-fault driver is intentionally negligent, such as in cases of drunk driving.

In cases that award punitive damages, the at-fault driver who committed the negligent behavior that led to the accident must pay a designated amount of money to the victim as a form of punishment. Since punitive damages are not always awarded, it is a good idea to discuss the details of your car accident with an experienced injury attorney to see if you would be eligible to receive punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages Vs. Punitive Damages FAQs

Can punitive damages exceed compensatory damages?

The Supreme Court provides guidelines for calculating punitive damages. There is no maximum sum. However, punitive damages should not exceed four times the amount of compensatory damages.

What are the three types of compensatory damages?

These include economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

Will I receive punitive damages?

Each case is unique, and if you are a victim of a car accident that involves negligent behavior, you may qualify for punitive damages. Discussing your case with an attorney is the best way to determine if you should receive punitive damages.

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