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What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive Damages

In a situation where one person has suffered injury due to the behavior of another person, the injured person may sue for damages. The “damages” owed are a financial reimbursement. These funds are decided upon based on what is necessary to help restore the injured person back to their original “whole” state of being.

Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, are rarely granted, and only in cases where the defendant was found guilty of evil or inconceivable behavior. The main intention of awarding punitive damages is not to make amends to the injured party but to punish the wrong doer. If punitive damages are significant enough, the guilty party and others are unlikely to repeat similar despicable behavior. High punitive damage settlements send a clear message. This behavior will not be tolerated and if caught, the price tag is massive.

Punitive damages may be added to compensatory damages, and awarded to the victim, however punitive damages are not awarded exclusively. The amount of punitive damages awarded depends on the severity of the injury and loss, the level of behavior exhibited by the defendant and award precedents set in similar cases.

What are compensatory damages then?

Compensatory Damages cover obvious things like the costs of medical care, costs associated with getting to and from appointments, necessary medications and assistive devices if necessary. It covers the damage or loss to property caused by the incident.

Also included is the cost for things many of us take for granted and are difficult to put a price tag on. This includes ongoing and future pain and suffering, anxiety and counseling

It can include the costs of missed income when the injured person is unable to work. Compensatory damages take into accounts cases of serious injury where the person is not able to return to work for several months and in the many situations the person is no longer able to do their current type of work or is unable to work at all.

A serious injury affects quality of life in many areas. The injured person may have no choice but to abandon usual hobbies or sports. It puts an extra strain on family relationships, when the injured person is no longer able to fulfill customary roles such as a parent or a spouse. Compensatory damages attempt to financially compensate for these losses.


People undergo ongoing pain and suffering in many areas of life, after a serious injury. Sometimes the injuries are obvious in cases where the person has lost limbs or the ability to walk, see or feed themselves. Other serious side effects of the injury are invisible to the eye such as job loss, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem. The law attempts to set a financial cost for losses that are in essence, impossible to calculate. When certain actions indicate total disregard for the injured person, the court may see fit to punish the wrong doer by awarding punitive damages.

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