Ordinary Damages vs Punitive Damages: What’s the Difference?

Over 51,000 fatal car crashes occurred in 2019.

While not everyone in these vehicles died, over 36,000 did, and the rest encountered injuries.

When you get in a car accident and encounter injuries, you might have the right to sue the responsible driver.

When you sue, you might be able to ask for several types of compensation. So, what’s the difference between ordinary damages vs. punitive damages?

It’s important to know the difference between these two terms if you ever need to sue after a car accident.

The Basics of Ordinary Damages

If you encounter injuries from car accidents or other incidents, you can sue for the damages you lost from the incident.

Lawyers might call these ordinary damages, actual damages, or compensatory damages. These terms all refer to the same thing, though, and here are some examples of ordinary damages you can receive:

  • Property damage
  • Medical bills from the injuries
  • Loss of income or ability to earn money
  • Pain and suffering from your injuries and trauma

Ordinary damages compensate you for your actual losses from the accident, both now and in the future.

For example, if you encountered an injury that prevented you from working for two weeks, you can ask for compensation for the loss of two weeks of income.

If the injury prevents you from ever working again, you can ask for compensation for the loss of your future wages, too.

When you work with a lawyer on your lawsuit, the attorney adds up all the actual losses you experienced from the accident. The total amount you lost in damages is the amount you’ll likely receive for your compensation.

The Basics of Punitive Damages

As you consider the types of damages you can sue for in a lawsuit, you’ll come across punitive damages. You can’t always sue for punitive damages in lawsuits, but there are times you can.

The main thing to consider is the defendant’s responsibility in the incident. Did they act recklessly or negligent? If so, is this what caused the accident?

When a defendant does something negligent or reckless, it opens the door to sue for punitive damages in car accidents.

If the court awards punitive damages, the amount is above and beyond the amount you requested for your ordinary damages. Courts might use a formula for determining how much you can receive for these.

One thing to note is that punitive damages hold the defendant responsible for the accident that injured someone. If they must pay for their reckless behavior, it might cause them to think twice before doing this again.

Understanding Ordinary Damages Vs. Punitive Damages is Vital in a Lawsuit

After reading this, you might better understand the difference between ordinary damages vs. punitive damages.

If you’re preparing to file a lawsuit, you might be able to ask for both types. Your lawyer can give you more details about your options.

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