The difference between compensatory and punitive damages in a personal injury case
Compensatory or Actual Damages, refers to those damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, alteration of lifestyle and the value of any permanent injuries. Punitive damages may be assessed in a personal injury case when the at fault party has engaged in wrongful, reckless or intentional conduct that has caused damages or injury. Recklessness, under the common law is defined as the “conscious disregard for the safety (or property rights) of others.” Courts require that actual damages be proved by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard (“more likely than not it occurred as the result of the at fault party’s negligent rule violation.”), whereas punitive damages must be proved by “clear and convincing” evidence. The amounts awarded are determined by a jury or judge at trial, depending on the type of case.