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What Are Compensatory Damages?

Posted on March 17, 2021 in

If someone else in Arizona carelessly caused your injury, you may be entitled to what the law calls damages. In legalese, this word refers to a sum of money owed to you by a defendant (at-fault party) for causing your injury. There are two central categories of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are much more common. They serve to reimburse a victim’s expenses, while punitive damages are retributive against the defendant.

Defining Compensatory Damages

In personal injury law, compensatory damages are a financial award given to a plaintiff if he or she proves the defendant more likely than not caused his or her injuries. To receive compensatory damages, a plaintiff in Arizona must prove he or she suffered a loss, and that this loss was attributable to the defendant. The plaintiff must also quantify the value of the loss to demand a certain amount in compensation.

The goal of a compensatory damage award is to make a victim whole again; in other words, to restore the victim to the financial state he or she would be in had the accident never happened. The goal of punitive damages, on the other hand, is to punish a defendant for especially wrongful, reckless, wanton, malicious or egregious actions. Punitive damages force a defendant to pay an additional amount with the hope of dissuading him or her (and others in the community) from future such misconduct.

What Are the Two Types of Compensatory Damages?

Within the compensatory category of damages in personal injury law, there are two different types of financial awards: economic and noneconomic. These are also referred to as specific and general damages, respectively.

Economic damages provide reimbursement for tangible and/or financial losses connected to an accident. They make up for the actual amount of money the victim spent because of the accident. The amount of a victim’s economic damages is based on evidence such as bills, receipts, medical records and paystubs.

Noneconomic damages compensate intangible losses, or the general losses a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would suffer. These are the personal, emotional, mental and psychological damages connected to an accident. The amount of a victim’s noneconomic damages depends on how significantly the accident impacted the victim. Evidence proving these losses can include expert testimony, an injury journal and psychological counseling.

What Are Examples of Compensatory Damages?

If you wish to file a lawsuit in Arizona, you or your Queen Creek personal injury attorney must create a comprehensive list of your compensatory damages. This is how you demand fair and full compensation to make up for your losses. There are many examples of compensatory damages; your lawyer can help you choose the ones that apply to your case to include on your demand letter.

Examples of economic compensatory damages:

  • Past and future medical expenses and hospital bills
  • Medicine and prescription drugs
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Increased living expenses, such as disability accommodations
  • Property damage repair costs
  • Losses of income, employment benefits and future earnings
  • Out-of-pocket costs, including travel and legal fees
  • Death benefits, in a wrongful death claim

Examples of noneconomic compensatory damages:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Emotional distress or mental anguish
  • Psychological trauma
  • Lost quality or enjoyment of life
  • Loss of opportunity
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of consortium or household services

The final amount of your compensatory damage award in a successful personal injury claim will depend on the severity of the accident and your injury. In general, a plaintiff with a severe or catastrophic injury will recover more in compensatory damages in Arizona than a victim with a minor injury. Other factors that can alter your award include your age, income and overall health.

For more information about compensatory damages in personal injury law, or assistance with your specific case, consult with an attorney near you.