What Are Compensatory Damages?
July 07, 2023
Why Are Compensatory Damages Awarded?
Civil lawsuits provide a way for individuals who have been harmed by another party’s negligent or reckless acts to seek payment for the losses they’ve suffered from the incident. Compensatory damages are awarded in civil cases to return the plaintiff to the position they were in before the injury occurred. These damages are also known as “actual damages” because they provide relief from the actual losses incurred by the victim, including both financial and non-monetary losses.
To recover compensatory damages, the plaintiff and their legal team must be able to prove that the defendant acted in a negligent manner, which subsequently caused injury and loss to the victim. Another element of a successful civil claim is providing compelling evidence of the damages suffered by the plaintiff and translating those losses into a monetary amount sufficient to make the plaintiff whole again.
If you have questions about compensatory damages and how they are calculated as part of a claim, contact the Law Offices of Preston Easley today to speak with a helpful personal injury lawyer about your unique case: 310-361-9484.
What Are the Varieties of Compensatory Damages?
Many types of incidents can lead to a personal injury claim. From maritime accidents to car crashes, the cause and aftermath of a personal injury can vary greatly. Compensatory damages are broken into two main categories to ensure the legal system can adequately calculate and award fair compensation for all types of personal injury lawsuits.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you’ve likely accumulated bills or have seen reduced paychecks due to missing work while you recover. These easily quantifiable financial losses comprise the compensatory damages known as economic damages. Common examples of economic damages include:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses, including doctor appointments, surgeries, pain medications, durable medical supplies, and ER bills
- Rehabilitation and therapy costs
- Property replacement or repair
- Loss of future income if you’ve become disabled and can no longer work
- Costs for in-home care
- Bills for accessibility upgrades to your home and vehicle
Good record-keeping is vital to correctly determining the cost of your economic damages. Retain copies of all bills related to your medical care and property repair, and have your past income information available.
Injuries cause impacts that are felt far beyond your finances. Accidents can lead to chronic pain, a decreased quality of life, mental health struggles, and more. These damages are much less tangible but can be just as devastating for victims and their families. Non-economic damages compensate victims for non-monetary losses caused by their injuries, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of life’s enjoyment
- Loss of consortium (a disruption to the relationship benefits or support between the injured individual and their spouse or close family members)
Some states set a cap on the value of non-economic damages, but the details of these rules may vary from place to place and are subject to change as laws are amended. For example, California has a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims but places no award cap on non-economic damages in other types of personal injury lawsuits. It’s critical to speak with an experienced lawyer to understand your state’s laws and how they may affect the potential value of your claim.
How Are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?
Calculating your medical expenses or the cost of replacing your damaged vehicle after an accident is relatively straightforward, but it can be tricky to place a dollar amount on intangible losses like pain and suffering. Skilled personal injury lawyers can utilize a couple of different methods to determine fair compensation for your non-economic damages:
- Per diem method: To figure out a settlement value using this formula, your lawyer will determine how many days your injury disrupted your life. They will multiply this number by a set amount for each day. Frequently the daily amount is based on your typical wage or salary.
- Multiplier method: This formula uses your economic damages as a starting point, then multiplies them by a number between one and five to arrive at the value of your non-economic damages. The value of your multiplier is determined by considering the severity of your injuries, the length of your recovery, the extent of your pain and suffering, and other factors related to your case.
What Are Other Types of Damages That May Be Available to Plaintiffs in a Civil Suit?
Compensatory damages are the most common method of providing relief to victims in personal injury claims. However, in rare situations, the court may also choose to award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Whereas compensatory damages are based on the actual losses incurred by the victim, punitive damages are determined by the defendant’s actions. The court will consider whether the defendant acted in a grossly negligent or malicious way that justifies additional financial punishment.
Punitive damages not only penalize the defendant for their wrongful behavior but discourage others from making the same harmful choices and putting more families through pain and suffering. State statutes determine whether punitive damages are allowed and outline how courts should make their calculations. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to award punitive damages rests with the judge or jury in your case.
How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Help You Recover the Damages You Deserve?
If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by someone else’s negligent behavior, you have the right to seek financial compensation for your losses. A skilled personal injury attorney can help you calculate your economic and non-economic losses and will build a solid case to give you the best possible chance of making a full financial recovery through compensatory damages. If you have questions about your specific circumstances and how our firm can help you, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Preston Easley today at 310-361-9484.