What Is the Difference Between Actual and Punitive Damages?

If you were hurt in an accident, you might be entitled to seek damages. Damages are monetary compensation awarded to an injured party to cover losses resulting from an accident. There are two types of damages: actual damages and punitive damages. Here, we will explain the difference between actual and punitive damages.

Actual Damages

Actual damages are also sometimes referred to as compensatory damages. These are damages that compensate the victim for the actual losses they have suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions. Actual damages can be further divided into two categories: economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refer to tangible losses that are easy to quantify, such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. These losses have a specific dollar value attached to them, and you can prove them through receipts, bills, and other documentation.

Non-economic damages refer to intangible losses that do not have a specific dollar value, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. These losses can be more difficult to quantify, and the amount awarded can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the impact it has had on the victim’s life.

Here are details of some types of economic damages:

  • Medical Expenses –  Medical expenses are the most common type of actual damages awarded in personal injury cases. If you have been hurt in a collision, you may be entitled to compensation for the cost of medical treatment, including hospital bills, doctor’s fees, and rehabilitation costs. You might also seek compensation for future medical expenses related to your injury.
  • Lost Wages – If you cannot work as a result of your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages. This can include both past and future lost wages. Past lost wages are wages you have already missed out on as a result of your injury, while future lost wages are wages you are likely to miss out on in the future because of your injury.
  • Property Damage – If your property took damage as a result of the accident, you might be entitled to compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing your property. This can include your car, home, or any other property that was damaged in the accident.
  • Pain and Suffering – Pain and suffering are another type of actual damages courts can award in personal injury cases. Pain and suffering can include physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Calculating pain and suffering damages can be difficult, as there is no set formula for determining the value of these losses.

Punitive Damages

what is the difference in actual and punitive damages?Punitive damages are also referred to as exemplary damages. They are given to punish a defendant for their actions and keep other people from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Courts typically only award punitive damages in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious, such as cases involving fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct.

Unlike actual damages, which compensate the injured party for their losses, punitive damages punish the defendant and send a message that their conduct will not be tolerated. Punitive damages are not awarded in every case, and the amount of punitive damages awarded can vary widely depending on the circumstances of the case.

For example, if a driver was texting while driving and caused a car accident that resulted in serious injuries, the injured party may be entitled to actual damages to cover their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In addition, the court may also order the driver to pay punitive damages to punish them for their reckless behavior and to deter others from texting while driving.

Factors Considered in Awarding Punitive Damages

When awarding punitive damages, courts consider a variety of factors, including:

  • The severity of the defendant’s conduct: The more egregious the defendant’s conduct, the more likely they are to be ordered to pay punitive damages.
  • The defendant’s financial resources: Punitive damages can be substantial, and the court will consider the defendant’s ability to pay when determining the amount of damages to award.
  • The relationship between the actual damages and the punitive damages: The amount of punitive damages the court awards should be proportional to the actual damages awarded.

Contact Loewy Law Firm for Help

If you have been the victim of someone else’s negligence, it is important to speak with a skilled personal injury attorney who can explain your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact the Loewy Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our professional legal team.