What Are Punitive Damages?

Personal Injury Lawyer

Anyone who hopes to file a personal injury lawsuit needs to understand the different types of damages. This is essentially how it is determined how much the defendant will owe you if you win the case. You may have heard about something called punitive damages. This is the most unusual type of damages, especially in personal injury cases. This guide will explain exactly what punitive damages are, as well as the other two types of damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are unique because they are not actually a type of compensation. Usually, the defendant has to pay the plaintiff the amount of money that he or she lost due to the injury. Punitive damages are unrelated to this financial loss. Instead, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant.

If the injury was an accident, then chances are high that the defendant does not need to be punished. It is very uncommon for punitive damages to be assigned in personal injury cases. However, it does still happen. If the defendant was acting maliciously, then punitive damages may be assigned. However, if this is the case, then a criminal case should be filed, rather than a personal injury case. Punitive damages may also be assigned if the defendant is found to have acted especially irresponsibly. For example, if the defendant was driving while drunk, punitive damages may be assigned.

Other Types of Damages

There are two other types of damages:

  • Special compensatory damages
  • General compensatory damages

Both of these types of damages are types of compensation. Special compensatory damages relate to losses with an objective monetary value. Hospital bills have an exact value, which means they fall into this category. Special compensatory damages often include the purchase of medicine and the loss of wages from missed work.

General compensatory damages are essentially the opposite of special compensatory damages. It includes every loss that does not have an objective monetary value. This can include physical pain, emotional trauma, loss of ability, or even things like divorce. If you suffered that was not financial in nature, then it falls into this category and you can still be compensated for it. It is up to the judge to decide exactly how much the loss is worth. For example, the judge may decide that a painful medical procedure you had to endure because of the injury is worth $500. A catastrophic injury lawyer in Trenton, NJ will be able to tell you what kinds of damages are most likely for your case.



Thanks to Davis & Brusca for their insight into personal injury claims and punitive damages.