Compensatory Damages Vs. Punitive Damages – What’s the Difference?

compensatory damages from accident
If you have been the victim of an accident, you may be entitled to compensation that will help you manage the effects of the accident. In a legal case, this compensation falls into two categories: Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages. Some examples include car accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, workers’ compensation, and truck accidents. When personal injury strikes, you can be left reeling in confusion and pain. You may be dealing with loss, suffering emotional anguish, or working through feelings of anxiety and frustration due to the accident. The last thing you need is to try to navigate the complex waters of personal injury law alone.

Compensatory Damages

When a personal injury is sustained due to an accident, compensatory damages can be paid to the victim to offset the losses incurred. These losses can range from bodily injury to marital upheaval to damage to personal property. Compensatory damages can be separated into two categories: specific/economic and non-monetary. Specific/economic compensatory damages refer to financial losses and expenses incurred because of an accident. These damages can often be calculated by reviewing statements and costs. Some types of economic damages are:
  • Medical bills due to treatments, hospital stays, and prescription drugs
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of current and future wages
  • Cost of repair or replacement of property
  • Cost of living with a disability, such as a wheelchair
If a person sustains an injury and incurs medical expenses, a personal injury lawyer will work to ensure that the victim is compensated for those expenses. The attorney should also include in that compensation money for future medical expenses. The last thing an injured client needs is to worry that future medical treatment will not be paid for! At Donaghue & Labrum, we are committed to helping you get the financial compensation you need to cover your current and future expenses.
recovering compensatory damages
Non-monetary damages are losses that are more difficult to determine. For example, anxiety or fear that surfaced after the injury took place. Generally, non-monetary damages can include:
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, or anger
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium/companionship of a loved one
  • Wrongful death due to the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity
Though these types of injuries can be difficult to see, their effects can be just as devastating.

What About Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are paid when there is found to be willful intent to cause harm or extreme negligence that hurts another person. Punitive damages are a form of punishment for the defendant and are used as a deterrent for the defendant or others to repeat the action again. For example, if a corporation consciously exposes employees to poisonous chemicals on the job without the employees’ knowledge or consent, they may be required to pay punitive damages. If a person causes an accident while drinking and driving, their punishment may involve paying punitive damages.

Recovering Damages Under Pennsylvania Law

anxiety and depression from an accident
Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations of two years on personal injury cases. This means you must file a suit within two years of the date that the accident occurred if you are hoping to recover compensatory or punitive damages. In the case of claims against county, city, or state governmental agencies, the limit is narrowed to six months. In the case of car accidents, Pennsylvania has enacted a no-fault policy. This means that for most minor accidents, the injured party’s insurance company must cover medical expenses and lost income due to the accident. However, if the car accident involved serious injuries, there is a chance the case may be litigated. Some states have enacted caps on damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases; in Pennsylvania there are no limits in cases of personal injury or wrongful death. In the case of punitive damages, the damages may equal up to two times the amount of actual compensatory damages.

Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers

At Donaghue & Labrum, we are equipped to help you receive the maximum compensation that you deserve for the injuries you sustained. It is essential that an experienced professional handle your case. We understand that clear communication and expert navigation through the legal process will give our clients peace of mind. Our legal team will do the hard work needed to protect you and your family and provide top-notch advice and care. Read here about a client who was recently awarded $6,000,000 in damages. Though any personal injury is stressful, you can rest assured that the attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum will fight to resolve your case. We offer convenient locations in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania and have been serving the greater Philadelphia area for over 25 years. Please call for a free consultation today.