What Is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages?

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Whether someone is involved in an auto accident, slip and fall accident, workplace accident, or otherwise, the common denominator may be that they rarely walk away from the scene unscathed. However, the types of damages they walk away with may be dependent on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident. These usually comprise a culmination of compensatory and punitive damages. Continue reading to learn the difference between compensatory and punitive damages and how an experienced Hillsborough County personal injury lawyer at Merricks Law Group, P.A. can help you decipher which types you must seek recovery from.

What are compensatory damages in a personal injury claim?

Otherwise referred to as actual damages, compensatory damages may offer a plaintiff payment for the pains, injuries, and other losses they incurred from the negligent behavior of a defendant. Specific examples of compensatory damages a plaintiff may claim include hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, repairs to or replacement for damaged property, and more.

This is arguably the most common type of damage a Florida court will order a defendant to pay. This is so long as a plaintiff can successfully prove their case. In other words, if they can provide a preponderance of evidence that their injuries and damages are in direct correlation to the defendant’s carelessness.

Of note, Florida statute does not cap the amount of money a plaintiff may recover in compensatory damages. Rather, a Florida court will order an amount that evenly compensates for the expenses brought forward by the plaintiff.

How are compensatory damages different from punitive damages?

On the other hand, punitive damages may work to punish a defendant for their careless behavior that led up to your personal injury accident and your subsequent injuries and damages. Specifically, this may apply if a defendant’s behavior was willful and extremely negligent. This may apply if a defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the car accident event in question.

Otherwise known as exemplary damages, the Florida court may order punitive damages if it believes the compensatory damages paid to the plaintiff are insufficient. Further, it is meant to warn and prevent the defendant from repeating this offense.

In the state of Florida, punitive damages have a cap of three times the amount of your compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is higher. For example, say that your hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, repairs to or replacement for damaged property, etc. cost $50,000 in total. Then, the Florida court may order a defendant to pay $150,000 in punitive damages. Or, say that your compensatory damages totaled $200,000. Well, the most the Florida court may order is $500,000.

Rest assured, our team at Merricks Law Group, P.A. has experience in handling cases just like yours. So please do not be afraid to reach out to a skilled Hillsborough County personal injury lawyer.

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