Compensatory and punitive damages can both be awarded in a personal injury case, but it’s rare to see the latter become part of a settlement or verdict. This is because there are specific requirements for punitive damages and many cases fail to meet them. If you are thinking about pursuing punitive damages, our Westchester County personal injury attorneys should be able to tell you if that is a viable option.

What is the Purpose of Punitive Damages?

Compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for the expenses of the accident and make up for the trauma that you have experienced. Some say that these are damages meant to make you “whole” again after an accident.

That is not the point of punitive damages. As the name implies, punitive damages are there to punish a defendant. They are not calculated with the expenses of your accident in mind. They are reserved for situations where a defendant was extremely negligent or willfully put others in danger.

Because of this, punitive damages are not awarded in every successful personal injury case. It is actually quite rare for them to be awarded at all.

What Are Some Types of Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages can fall into two broad categories. There are economic damages, meant to make up for the monetary costs of the accident. This can include compensation for:

  • Medical expenses, past and future
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property damages

Then there are non-economic damages. These account for the psychic toll that an accident can have on a victim. This can include compensation for:

  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain from disfigurement or disability

Is There a Limit to Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are meant to send a message to a defendant and others about how their behavior can harm people. They are not calculated with the expenses of the accident in mind, so they can actually climb quite high once a jury decides to award them.

Some states set a limit on these types of damages. The jury can come back with a verdict and the judge can lower the amount of damages to abide by state law. New York has no cap on punitive damages though. This part of a verdict can still be reduced or appealed, but there is no state law that says you can only receive a certain amount or rule that ties it to the amount of compensatory damages you receive.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

You are not required to hire a lawyer, but proving negligence on your own can be tough. Proving that you deserve punitive damages is even tougher. You’ll want to have an experienced lawyer on your side, one who is ready to advocate for you and build the strongest possible case.

Contact Our Firm Today

When you are ready to move forward with your personal injury claim., you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer. Contact Hausman & Pendzick to schedule a consultation. We would be happy to help you learn more about your legal options.