If you suffered an incident that caused injuries, you may be concerned about how you will be compensated. Whether a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or any other personal injury claim, you have the right to recover damages for the injuries you suffered as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing.
Our team of expert personal injury lawyers at The Hammack Law Firm is passionate about helping people receive the compensation they deserve. After all, you’ve been through enough and don’t deserve to be taken advantage of by the at-fault party’s attorney or insurance.
But what exactly are damages, and what role do they play in a personal injury claim? In any case there are two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Just as it sounds, compensatory damages compensate a victim for the losses they suffered after an accident, and punitive damages act as a punishment to the at-fault party in order to prevent any similar future behavior.
Let’s dive in further to understand the differences between these two and how courts decide how to award damages in a claim.
What are Compensatory Damages?
After you have been injured in a personal injury incident, you have suffered mental, emotional, and physical losses. In order to make you “whole” for these losses, you are owed compensation. These damages are considered compensatory and should pay for all of the damage you suffered due to your injuries.
Compensatory damages can reimburse a victim for lost wages, medical bills, property damage, and even any future costs like physical therapy—these are also called economic damages. This category of damages handles not just material losses but also emotional and mental, sometimes called noneconomic damages. These include such things as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
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What are Punitive Damages?
When you hear the word punitive, you might think of the word punish, which is exactly what these damages are meant to do. Instead of simply compensating a victim for their injuries, extra money is awarded to specifically punish the at-fault party in a way that would deter them from ever acting in a similar way again.
Punitive damages are not awarded in every case but are kept from situations in which the defendant acted in a particularly egregious manner that signals an intentional action to cause harm or a complete disregard for a person’s safety. This could be an action like driving while drunk or anything else that shows a complete lack of precaution or illegal behavior.
How Does a Court Decide What Damages to Award?
In Gamble v. Stevenson, 305 S.C. 104, 406 S.E.2d 350 (1991), the South Carolina Supreme Court established four factors that must be met to determine the degree of offense the defendant acted in. This included:
1. The degree of the defendant’s culpability or guilt
2. The duration of the conduct
3. Whether or not the defendant was aware of the action or concealed the negligent action
4. Similar conduct that the defendant has done in the past
A court will use these four factors to examine each individual case and determine whether punitive damages are appropriate and the degree of their severity.
A court might decide to only award compensatory damages if the defendant cannot pay punitive damages. This can often be seen in personal injury claims where a single individual is being sued, and the claim isn’t against a large corporation or some other entity.
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Whether the different types of damages confuse you or make perfect sense, the best action you can take for your claim is hiring a legal professional to handle your case on your behalf. Our expert attorneys at The Hammack Law Firm have experience calculating and determining the damages you are owed. Not only this, but we are prepared to fight in or out of court to see that you receive the compensation you deserve. Your injuries should not cause you to suffer financially, especially when a negligent party was at fault for your damages.
If you’ve been injured in a personal injury incident and need to speak with an attorney, call The Hammack Law Firm today for a FREE consultation at (864) 428-7591 or contact us online here.