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Punitive damages for personal injury claims

In our last post we discussed the purpose of damages in personal injury claims, focusing on the role of compensatory damages. Damages are the compensation to which an injury victim may be entitled if another person is found to be at fault for the accident.

Compensatory damages, as the name implies, are meant to compensate the victim of an injury for any actual financial losses. Courts award compensatory damages in an effort to "make the plaintiff whole" after an injury. Common examples may include medical bills, funeral costs or lost wages. The cost of repairing damage to a vehicle or other property would also be considered compensatory damages.

Punitive damages may also be awarded. While compensatory damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for losses suffered, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. Punitive damages discourage the defendant from acting similarly in the future and dissuade others from acting negligently.

Punitive damages are often considered the "big money" in personal injury lawsuits but courts also take them very seriously and they are never guaranteed. Your damages may be left to a judge or jury to determine and an attorney may be able to give you a more accurate idea of what you can expect.

If you have been hurt or lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else's negligence, whether a motor vehicle accident, an incident at an unsafe workplace or an injury from a defective product, it is important to act quickly to protect your rights and preserve any claims for damages you may have. Consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you review your case and pursue any appropriate claims, allowing you to focus on recovering and getting back to your life.

Source: Injured, "How Much Is Your Personal Injury Case Worth?" Andrew Lu, Jan. 16, 2013

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