What Are Compensatory Damages?

The plaintiff in a civil lawsuit can generally receive two main types of damages: punitive damages that punish a defendant’s wrongdoing or intentional tort, and compensatory damages that seek to make the victim “whole” again after an accident caused by negligence. Every state has different laws concerning punitive damages, limits on such damages, and the types of damages available in certain types of civil claims. However, compensatory damages are generally the same for any civil lawsuit, depending on the effects of a defendant’s negligence.

If you or a loved one experience a personal injury or other loss due to the negligence of another party, it is essential to know which types of damages could play a role in your future lawsuit so speak with an experienced Nassau County personal injury lawyer. The plaintiff has the burden of proving not only that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s damages, but also the extent of those damages.

Medical Expenses

If a defendant’s negligence leads to serious physical injuries, the plaintiff may require hospitalization and emergency medical treatment. The plaintiff in a civil lawsuit can claim compensation for any and all medical expenses resulting from a defendant’s negligence. These damages can include hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, prescription medication costs, and other costs for long-term care like physical therapy, occupational therapy, or counseling.

It is important for a plaintiff to refrain from agreeing to a settlement that is contingent upon releasing the defendant from further liability for the claim until consulting with an attorney. In most cases, once a plaintiff accepts a settlement from a defendant, the plaintiff can no longer take legal action against that defendant for the same claim. Accepting a settlement too soon could lead to discovering more medical expenses later that the plaintiff could not expect a defendant to pay.

Lost Income

Many personal injuries require missing work for at least a few days during recovery. If a plaintiff suffered an injury due to negligence outside of work and cannot claim workers’ compensation, he or she may need to use sick says, vacation days, or accrued paid time off during recovery. A plaintiff can sue for wages and benefits lost during recovery from an injury caused by a negligent defendant.

In the event a defendant’s negligence prevents the plaintiff from working in the future, the plaintiff can sue for lost future earnings. The plaintiff’s attorney will likely consult with a financial expert witness to provide the court with an estimate of the plaintiff’s lost future earnings.

Property Damage

If a defendant’s negligence caused damage to the plaintiff’s personal property, the plaintiff can sue for the costs of repairing or replacing those items. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury lawsuits. A plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit may secure compensation that covers his or her vehicle repairs or pays for a new car.

Pain and Suffering

It may sound difficult to quantify something like “pain and suffering” with a monetary figure. A jury will consider several factors in awarding pain and suffering damages. In general, the amount a plaintiff receives reflects his or her medical expenses, future prognosis, and testimony from expert witnesses. For example, a broken arm may interfere with the plaintiff’s ability to do his or her job, require surgical treatment, and involve several months of recovery. The plaintiff could reasonably expect a large amount of compensation for such a claim. However, in a case involving a severed arm, the physical pain and psychological distress from such a catastrophic injury would likely result in more significant pain and suffering recovery.

A jury may award a large lump sum as pain and suffering damages. For example, a broken arm may lead to $5,000 in medical expenses and several weeks’ worth of lost income, and the jury may simply multiply the plaintiff’s $5,000 in medical expenses by three to reflect the pain and discomfort of the injury and the recovery process. In other cases, the jury may award “per diem” compensation and the plaintiff would receive a set amount per day.

Every personal injury case is different and will have different types of compensation. If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries due to the negligence of another party and are unsure about which types of compensation may be available to you, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.