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Personal Injury Recovery: Compensatory Vs. Punitive Damages

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boating accident attorney

Generally speaking, the idea behind filing a personal injury lawsuit is to pursue an award in civil court—usually monetary—for someone who was injured in an accident resulting from the negligence of another individual or entity. Such awards in personal injury cases are known as “damages.”

There are two main types of damages which can be awarded to a plaintiff who wins a personal injury lawsuit: compensatory and punitive damages. We have outlined the nature of these damages and their key differences below. Please keep in mind, this blog is not intended as legal advice for your specific situation. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, please contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe today and schedule a free consultation to discuss your unique circumstances and best course of action.

Compensatory Damages

A majority of damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits are compensatory in nature. As you might expect based on the name, compensatory damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for various types of specific damage and loss caused by the defendant.

Compensatory awards provide restitution for numerous types of loss, including specific property losses as well as less tangible forms of loss. For example, if you were injured in a car accident caused by the other driver, you could be awarded damages to compensate you for property damage to your vehicle, your medical bills, lost wages, and other relatively easily quantifiable costs resulting from the accident. Additionally, you could also receive compensation for losses that resulted from emotional trauma, missed opportunities, loss of your quality of life, and other losses which are much more difficult to quantify but are nonetheless a major consideration in personal injury cases. All of these examples would fall under the umbrella of “compensatory damages.”

Keep in mind, compensatory damages can cover losses which have already occurred as a direct result of the incident which served as the onus for the lawsuit, and they can also cover expected future losses. If your accident results in injuries which will require ongoing medical treatment for years to come, your compensatory damages should also account for this. As you can imagine, calculating compensatory damages can be an incredibly complex process and it is essential that you entrust this vital aspect of your personal injury lawsuit to an experienced attorney like those at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe.

Punitive Damages

As with compensatory damages, the name “punitive damages” provides a strong indication of the nature of these civil court-ordered awards. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury case as punishment to the defendant for particularly egregious and negligent actions, especially if their actions could be considered criminal in nature. While compensatory damages provide restitution for specific losses that resulted from an injury, punitive damages are intended to serve as powerful rebuke of especially malicious, wanton, and morally reprehensible behavior in order to deter such behavior in the future.

Mere negligence does not give rise to punitive damages in personal injury cases. Nonetheless,  the State of New York differs from most states in that it does not cap the amount of punitive damages which can be awarded. Additionally, though willful and knowledgeable engagement is often an important element in awarding punitive damages, it is not required. In New York, extreme negligence or recklessness can also result in punitive damages.

There is significant disagreement in New York courts over the standard of proof required to award punitive damages, so it is especially important that a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney handles your case if punitive damages could be involved.

If you have been the victim of any form of injury that resulted from the negligence of another person or entity, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe right away to set up a free consultation and allow us to analyze your potential for compensatory and possibly even punitive damages.

 

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