What Are Compensatory and Punitive Damages?

During any personal injury claim or lawsuit, there may be an at-fault party. The at-fault person is found liable for the accident because of their malicious intent, extreme recklessness, or willful or gross negligence. If the accident they caused resulted in the injury or damage of another party they will likely be held responsible and made to pay damages to the victim. Compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded depending on the circumstances of the accident and injury. For help getting the full extent of the compensation you deserve and ensuring your rights are protected, contact an experienced Hartford County personal injury attorney.

How Are Compensatory Damages Defined?

Compensatory damages are compensation for any expenses unwillingly accumulated by the victim during the aftermath of the accident and injury. Depending on the severity of the accident the victim may have hundreds if not thousands of dollars of debt from medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, and legal fees. They also likely have experienced mental or psychological damage including PTSD, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and other mood disorders or mental illnesses. Compensatory damages are calculated with all of these factors in mind and are paid by the defendant to the victim to reimburse them.

How Are Punitive Damages Defined?

Punitive damages are awarded to the victim separately from compensatory damages. While compensatory damages cover a real expense, punitive damages are different. They actually have little to do with the victim and instead are intended to further punish the defendant. If found guilty, a defendant can face many consequences depending on the specifics of the incident. Those penalties can include:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fees
  • Mandatory community service
  • Probation
  • Mandatory rehabilitation

Punitive damages are simply another way to penalize a guilty party. A court uses them as a way to deter the defendant from committing the same crime or behavior. They can also be used as a warning for others to learn from their mistakes and prevent similar behavior. Punitive damages will never be awarded on their own, only in addition to compensatory damages.

What is the Difference Between the Two?

The major difference between compensatory and punitive damages is the intention behind them. A court or judge will determine when either is awarded for different reasons. As discussed, compensatory damages are awarded as reimbursement for financial losses. Punitive damages are awarded as an additional penalty to dissuade the defendant or others from participating in similar actions.

Are Punitive Damages Limited in Connecticut?

Some states cap punitive damages to ensure they do not exceed a certain dollar amount or percentage of compensatory damages. Connecticut limits punitive damages depending on the case. For example, for cases involving discriminatory housing practices, punitive damages are capped at $50,000. However, for shoplifting cases, punitive damages are capped at $300. It heavily depends on the type of case you are involved in. For specific damage estimates and legal counsel contact a skilled attorney.

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