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How do Compensatory Damages Differ from Punitive Damages?

In personal injury lawsuits, victims are often entitled to monetary compensation for several types of “damages” or what a person’s injuries have cost them emotionally, financially, and physically.  However, understanding how these damages differ can often be confusing, to say the least.  There are usually two types of damages in personal injury lawsuits – “compensatory” and “punitive.”  Here is how they differ:

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the injury victim or plaintiff for the losses they suffered due to their accident and injuries.  In other words, it is monetary compensation that is intended to make them financially whole again.

Punitive damages, although rare, are intended to punish the at-fault party or defendant when their conduct is deemed as egregious or outrageously careless.  The goal is to hurt their purse or wallet and act as a deterrent against any such behavior in the future.

Compensatory damages are the most common form of damages awarded to plaintiffs in a personal injury case.  These damages cover financial losses occurring from:

  • current and estimated future medical expenses
  • damaged relationships
  • emotional distress or trauma
  • loss of future earning capacity
  • loss of enjoyment
  • lost income (current and estimated)
  • pain and suffering
  • property damages

Furthermore, in wrongful death cases, the surviving family members can sue for other types of damages including funeral costs and loss of companionship.

Punitive damages are awarded in conjunction with monetary damages but are less common.  They are primarily awarded to the plaintiff when the defendant has exhibited gross negligence or participates in illegal activities that caused the accident.  Drunk driving is a perfect example of egregious or outrageously careless behavior.  The hope is that punitive damages will deter other individuals from acting or behaving in a similar manner.  Additionally, the defendant may be criminally charged for their illegal actions. However, that is not under the purview of tort laws but criminal laws.

Limitations on Damages

In Florida personal injury cases, the state does not place limitations on compensatory damages.  However, there are limitations on punitive damages to keep them from becoming excessive.  Punitive damages aren’t allowed to exceed $500,000 or 3 times the compensatory amount awarded to the plaintiff except under specific circumstances.

The goal of our personal injury lawyers is to ensure the best outcome possible for victims and their families.  That is why it helps to take advantage of the fact that we work on contingency basis, so you only pay us if we get you compensation. We are prepared to litigate your case aggressively with experience, expertise, and professionalism.  To learn more about how we advocate for personal injury victims and ensure their rights are protected, call the Graves Thomas Rotunda Injury Law Group today at (772) 569-8155.

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