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Personal Injury / 7.05.2024

The Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages in California Injury Cases

Author: Westlake Injury Law

Were you injured in California? You could be entitled to two kinds of damages, compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages are any damages that may have accrued due to the nature of the incident.

Punitive or exemplary damages are typically used when discipling the defendant. 

Our team of attorneys at Westlake Injury Law understand the complications that come with suing for compensation. We have helped hundreds of clients successfully claim the compensation they are entitled to. 

What Are Damages in a Personal Injury Claim? 

In California the two types of damages associated with a personal injury claim are compensatory and punitive damages. Punitive damages are used to punish a defendant for any egregious actions that may have caused the injury. 

Compensatory damages are broken down into two categories, economic or non-economic damages. Economic damages can encompass damages that you are able to put a monetary value on such as medical bills. Non-economic damages are damages that you can’t put a monetary value on such as pain and suffering. 

Compensatory damages 

Compensatory damages are used to cover financial losses and costs related to the accident, and are always part of a personal injury lawsuit. These damages are divided into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages: 

  • Economic damages: Also known as "special damages", these are the direct costs that can be easily calculated, such as medical bills, lost income, and other out-of-pocket expenses. 
  • Non-economic damages: Also known as "general damages", these compensate for the intangible consequences of the injury, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or other subjective losses.  

The purpose of these damages are to help make the injured party whole again, ensuring they aren’t having to pay for their injury that was caused by someone else's negligence.  

Punitive Damages 

In California, punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are non-compensatory damages that a court can award to a plaintiff in efforts to punish a defendant for their actions and deter similar conduct. 

Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate the plaintiff for their losses. When seeking punitive damages, the plaintiff will need to be able to provide clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted oppressively, fraudulently or maliciously. 

Courts will consider factors such as the defendant’s wealth, the severity of the plaintiffs’ harm and the amount of compensatory damages awarded when determining the amount of punitive damages to be awarded. 

Differences Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages 

As stated previously there are some key differences between compensatory and punitive damages. Some of the major differences are; 

  • Purpose: The primary purpose of compensatory damages is to compensate the plaintiff for their losses, while punitive damages aim to punish the defendant and deter future wrongdoing. 
  • Eligibility: Compensatory damages are available to all plaintiffs who can demonstrate harm, while punitive damages are limited and typically only awarded in cases of extreme misconduct. 
  • Calculation: Compensation is based on specific losses incurred by the plaintiff and is calculated to cover these losses. In contrast, punitive damages are at the discretion of the court and can vary widely. 

Westlake Injury Lawyers | Here To Help 

If you have been injured due to someone else's negligence it is imperative to seek legal counsel that will represent you adequately. 

We pride ourselves in providing legal counsel and ensuring that you receive the compensation you are entitled to. We understand the litigation involved with personal injury cases and will work tirelessly to ensure you get the best outcome possible throughout your case.  Contact Westlake Injury Law at (805) 954-9605 to schedule a free consultation with a team of dedicated and experienced attorneys.

 Contact us today at (805) 338-6880 for a free consultation, and let us fight for your rights.

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Do not delay in addressing your legal concerns. If your situation has gotten out of hand, contact a Ventura County lawyer at the Westlake Injury Law to learn more about how we may be able to help you.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute a client relationship.
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