Compensatory or Punitive?


When someone gets injured by another individual or entity, that person may be entitled to compensation for injuries and other damages. If this sounds like a situation you’re dealing with, you may have heard the terms “compensatory damages” and “punitive damages.” What are they and what are the differences between them?

Compensatory Damages

These damages are meant to compensate the injured individual for money he or she had to pay due to the accident. The compensation helps the plaintiff become financially whole again. Some compensatory damages are easy to quantify, while others are harder and require the assistance of an attorney. The following are some compensatory damages you may be able to seek.

  • Medical Costs – Chances are when you were initially injured, you saw a medical professional right away. Perhaps you took a ride in an ambulance to the emergency room. Perhaps you’ve received two surgeries for the issue. Maybe you have to be on a particular medication for the rest of your life. All of these costs can be compensated.
  • Lost Income – Depending on the severity of your injury, you might miss a few days to a few months of work. If the injury is quite severe, you may never make it back to your job. You can make up that lost income through this compensation.
  • Pain and Suffering – This is one that is harder to quantify, and is meant to compensate for loss of consortium, discomfort suffered, pain suffered, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment.

Punitive Damages

In contrast to compensatory damages that are meant to benefit the plaintiff, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. These are typically awarded in cases where the defendant was found to have been particularly negligent in the incident. The plaintiff does financially benefit, but it generally isn’t enough to cover the large amounts that compensatory damages cover. Some examples of when punitive damages may be awarded include cases involving:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Distracted driving
  • Drunk driving
  • Product liability

As you can see, these cases could definitely involve situations in which the defendant was grossly negligent. The court may want to punish him or her so the same mistakes would never be made again.

Contacting a Lawyer for Assistance

If you’re dealing with a personal injury case, you may not know much about seeking compensatory or punitive damages. Your personal injury attorney in Indianapolis, IN can assist you in figuring it out so you have a higher chance of receiving what is owed to you. Contact your lawyer today.


Thanks to Ward & Ward Law Firm for their insight into personal injury claims and types of damages you can include.