Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages—Understanding Key Differences


If you're trying to file a personal injury claim, you might find yourself researching particular topics to help shed some light on your case. Additionally, if you’ve sustained injuries in an accident, you probably want to know how much your case is worth. Let's go over some legal terminology to provide insight into different kinds of compensation that can be awarded for a personal injury claim. You may have heard of certain terms already, but we would like to highlight some key points to differentiate between compensatory damages vs. punitive damages. If you want to learn more about these specific terms and how it might affect a personal injury case, keep reading to find out. And always remember, if you're ever involved in an accident in California, it's imperative to speak with a local personal injury attorney since different laws can vary by state.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Different types of damages can be awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. Compensatory damages are intended to help an injured victim by compensating for any loss experienced as a result of an accident. Examples of compensatory damages include financial loss as well as emotional distress. To be more specific, there are two categories within compensatory damages—economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages included medical expenses incurred after an accident, lost wages, property loss such as vehicle damage, and legal fees. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, psychological trauma, disfigurement or permanent physical disability, and decreased quality of life.

What Are Compensatory Damages

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant is found guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud. While compensatory damages are designed to compensate the victim for any harm they have suffered, punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party and deter future misconduct. Examples of punitive damages include drunk or distracted driving, medical malpractice, and product liability cases.

How Do You Prove Punitive Damages?

Proving compensatory damages is relatively straightforward since physical evidence can easily validate monetary loss. Furthermore, when working with a knowledgeable personal injury law firm in California, you can rest assured all the necessary receipts, paperwork, and medical documents will be submitted with your case. However, proving punitive damages may not be as simple. Punitive damages are decided by a judge or jury when a plaintiff can offer clear and convincing evidence to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and are calculated by taking into consideration relevant factors associated with the case. One of the most significant cases in California took place when a jury awarded $28 billion in punitive damages against tobacco-maker Phillip Morris. Another notable trial was based on a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric when the utility company was held liable for poisoning the residents of a small town in Southern California.

How Do You Prove Punitive Damages

How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge?

Most personal injury law firms charge a contingency fee; instead of charging clients hourly rates, attorneys only receive compensation if and when a case is settled or won. In other words, no recovery, no fee. At Yepremyan Law Firm, we work on a contingency basis for all personal injury matters. Our practice areas include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, ridesharing accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, pedestrian accidents, and workers' compensation.

How Much Is My Case Worth?

Every case is unique and requires an individualized approach to determine the best probable outcome. At Yepremyan Law Firm, we’re committed to helping clients receive the compensation they're entitled to. Our firm offers free case evaluations to better understand your situation and provide proper legal advice. Once we gather all the necessary information, we can help you explore available options. California personal injury law can be complex as various nuances can affect a given case. If you've been hurt in an accident, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles to help you navigate the legal landscape.

Yepremyan Law Firm has been representing clients throughout Southern California since 1998. Our dedicated team of legal professionals serves clients from all walks of life, helping injured victims recover the compensation they deserve. Call us today to book an appointment with a Los Angeles personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

*No Legal Advice Intended. This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. These materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice pertaining to any particular legal matter. Use of and access to this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader, user, or browser and Yepremyan Law Firm and any of its attorneys, employees, or associates.


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