Differences Between Compensatory and Punitive Damage Awards
When an individual is injured in a car, truck or motorcycle accident and someone else is at fault; that person can reasonably expect to be compensated for costs related to the injury. These costs can include medical bills, damaged property, lost wages and other practical expenses that result from the accident. Money awarded by the court for these types of expenses, through the process of a personal injury lawsuit, are called compensatory damages.
However, seriously or permanently injured accident victims may want to consider making a petition for punitive damages as well. This type of compensation is awarded when the person who caused the accident was grossly negligent in some way, for example, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the victim experiences emotional pain and suffering as well as physical trauma.
Emotional pain and suffering awards can potentially be significantly larger than some compensatory damages, but many factors can affect the outcome and award amount. The definition of pain and suffering has a relatively limited scope, but can include permanent disability, disfigurement, loss of companionship or significantly reduced the quality of life.
In California, for an accident victim to be awarded punitive damages, certain standards must be met. For compensatory awards, the level of proof required to win a personal injury lawsuit is by a preponderance of the evidence. That means that if it can be shown that is more likely than not that the defendant caused the accident, then they will be found guilty and must pay the compensatory award amount set by the court.
For punitive damages to be awarded, it must be shown by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant not only caused the accident but also showed malice or careless disregard for the safety and welfare of others through their actions.
Even with these fairly standardized guidelines, personal injury cases involving motor vehicles can be quite complex. There are some other factors, beyond the level of proof required, that can affect the outcome.
An attorney who is familiar with and knowledgeable about the complex laws surrounding personal injury in California can help injured victims understand their rights and evaluate the viability of a cased based on the available evidence. That’s why an experienced and professional California personal injury lawyer from the law offices of Guldjian Law APC may be able to assist victims by providing information regarding resources that can help accident victims recover from the emotional fallout.