In a claim for personal injury, a plaintiff claims that they have sustained an injury because of an act or failure to act by the defendant. A court may award the plaintiff money damages for personal injury in response, which will be further discussed below. In some cases, the events which form the basis of a personal injury claim may also form the basis of criminal charges. An example of this would be how a defendant may face a civil lawsuit for assault, as well as a criminal assault and battery charge.

A personal injury damages a plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both. Mental health injuries include emotional pain and anguish sustained by an accident, such as developing PTSD from the incident. Physical injuries include injuries to organs, limbs, or other parts of the anatomy. It is important to note that the injury sustained by a personal injury plaintiff does not need to manifest itself instantly, as the injury may develop over time.

There are several different types of events or accidents which may form the basis of a personal injury claim, including:

A personal injury may occur intentionally, such as when the defendant deliberately injures a victim, or intends to commit an act that results in injury to another person. A personal injury may also occur unintentionally. If an unintentional injury is the result of someone’s negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on the defendant’s negligent behavior. Automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents, and injuries sustained from medical malpractice, are all considered to be common examples of negligence cases.

What Are Compensatory Damages In A Personal Injury Claim?

To reiterate, personal injury claims are legal actions in which a person has suffered physical, mental, and/or emotional injuries, and/or property damages. These losses are generally the result of some sort of accident. If the injured party files a claim or lawsuit, they will most likely be requesting some form of financial compensation from the party that is responsible for causing the accident. This financial compensation is also known as compensatory damages, as they are compensating the recipient for the injuries that they suffered.

Compensatory damages are generally awarded for the purpose of restoring the injured person to the position that they were in before the harm or loss occurred. As such, compensatory damages are awarded in cases in which damages, injury, and/or loss has occurred.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of compensatory damage awards. Special damages, which are intended to restore the injured party to the position they were in before the harm or injury occurred. This most commonly includes damages that can be calculated, such as:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Property damage;
  • Loss of wages or earnings; and/or
  • Other quantifiable losses.

Alternatively, general damages may be awarded for losses that are not easily determined through monetary calculations. These can include losses associated with:

State laws may vary in terms of compensatory damages. An example of this would be how some states place limits on compensatory damages, especially general damages.

Compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit are generally paid by the party that caused the damage, or the defendant. In addition to compensatory damages, the plaintiff may be able receive other damages, such as exemplary damages which are also known as punitive damages.

What Are Exemplary Damages In A Personal Injury Case?

Exemplary damages are awarded to a plaintiff in order to punish the defendant. The court may also award exemplary or punitive damages in order to deter other people from committing the same or similar acts.

In order for a plaintiff to receive exemplary damages, the defendant’s actions must generally be considered:

These actions must be so egregious or malicious that the defendant is used as a public example of how not to act. An example of this would be how driving 30 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone might not be considered grossly reckless. In these circumstances, a person who was injured by the driver might receive compensatory damages for any injuries that they sustained. However, courts would generally be reluctant to issue a punitive or exemplary damages award in this case.

Alternatively, driving 75 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone would likely constitute gross recklessness. If a person was injured in these circumstances, the court might issue a punitive damages award to the plaintiff, in addition to the compensatory damages. Injuries that are caused intentionally could also result in an exemplary damages award, such as when a driver purposely strikes another vehicle with their own.

However, it is important to note that not every plaintiff who wins a personal injury case will be awarded exemplary damages. The court will generally only award the money after careful analysis in order to determine whether the following requirements are satisfied:

  • The plaintiff was awarded compensatory damages, restitution, or nominal damages;
  • The defendant acted in a purposeful or malicious way;
  • The punitive damages are calculated in an amount that is proportionate to the actual damages, such as 2 or 3 times the amount of the original damages; and/or
  • The punitive damages are awarded for the direct harm of the plaintiff.

How Are Exemplary Damages Calculated?

Exemplary damages are set according to the compensatory damages that are awarded to the plaintiff. Most states have placed a limit on how much a plaintiff can receive in exemplary damages. It is most common for the plaintiff to receive up to 3 times the compensatory award; however, most states require a plaintiff to receive compensatory damages before receiving any exemplary damages.

In general, punitive damages are not awarded in cases for breach of contract. However, if there is an individual tort or injury that occurred in a contract setting, punitive damages can sometimes be awarded for the separate tort. An example of this would be if someone assaults someone else during the contract formation process.

To reiterate, awarding exemplary damages is always up to the court; while it can be requested, the court has the authority to decide that there is not enough reason to award it.

In many cases, there are actions that the plaintiff may take that might affect their ability to receive an exemplary or punitive damages award. An example of this would be if the plaintiff has engaged in the same type of reckless or dangerous behavior, such as if the defendant caused the plaintiff injuries due to drunk driving.

If the plaintiff is also found to be driving drunk at the time of the accident, that fact can limit the amount of damages that they receive. In some cases, they may be totally barred from receiving damages. In this case, the plaintiff may be viewed as being contributorily negligent to the accident.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Help Obtaining Exemplary Damages?

You should consult with a personal injury attorney if you need help understanding or obtaining exemplary damages.

An experienced attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.