Punitive Damages vs. Compensatory Damages

If you suffered injuries and other losses in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, you are probably wondering how much compensation you can realistically recover. Ultimately, the answer to this would be based on your damages, which are the losses related to the accident and your injuries.

In most cases, damages are compensatory, which means they compensate injured people for all their injury-related losses. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are rarely awarded because they are intended to punish the at-fault party’s wrongdoing and discourage others from engaging in similar conduct.

Compensatory Damages Come in Two Types

Compensatory damages compensate injured victims for their losses to help them become whole again (to an extent) following an injury. These damages come in two primary types, including economic or special damages and non-economic or general damages. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate you for out-of-pocket costs associated with your injuries. These typically include:

  • Future and past lost earnings
  • Future and past medical expenses
  • Costs for replacing or repairing damaged property
  • Payment for household chores you incurred while you were recovering, including child care services, cleaning services, etc.
  • Expenses for assistive devices, such as wheelchairs

There’s no limit to how much economic damages you can recover because they are tied to quantifiable and actual losses.

Non-Economic Damages

These are more difficult to calculate and prove than economic damages because they’re meant to compensate you for intangible losses related to your injuries, such as emotional distress. These usually include:

  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • Lost companionship or consortium

Understanding Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are completely different from compensatory damages. While compensatory damages are for reimbursing the losses of injured people, punitive damages are for punishing people for bad behavior. In Georgia, courts only consider punitive damages in personal injury cases in which the at-fault party’s behavior was particularly egregious or involved aggravating circumstances.

The courts impose punitive damages in personal injury cases involving product liability. Specifically, in cases where manufacturers of medical devices or drugs willfully withheld test results or data showing that people using their products have an increased risk of potential complications but failed to warn people of the known risks.

The courts also impose punitive damages in cases involving drunk or drugged driving, sexual assault, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual conduct with a minor, felony assault, nursing home abuse, and kidnapping. Punitive damages are capped at $250,000 in Georgia, except in cases involving product liability, drunk or drugged driving, and intentional injuries.

Seek Legal Assistance From a Seasoned Georgia Personal Injury Attorney Today

Whether you got hurt in a car accident, slip and fall accident, pedestrian accident, trucking accident, or another type of accident due to the negligent or intentional acts of another person or entity, you deserve to be fully compensated for your damages. To learn more about your claim, get in touch with the Georgia personal injury attorneys at Banks, Stubbs & McFarland.

Set up your free case evaluation by filling out our online form or calling our office at 770-887-1209.