What is the difference between compensatory and punitive damages?

Firm News,Wrongful Death On Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Losing a loved one in a sudden accident can be an incredibly difficult experience to endure, and knowing that his or her death could have been prevented can be even more traumatic. In addition to the emotional pain that you and your family have to contend with, you may also be confronted by significant an unexpected financial hardships as a result of the fatal incident. That is why it is important to be familiar with the types of damages that can be awarded in Connecticut wrongful death cases, as well as their intended purposes.

According to California State University, Northridge, compensatory damages are intended to account for actual injuries and losses. Everything from medical expenses to loss of income to physical injuries can be quantified in a compensatory damages award. Beyond that, significant but intangible losses, such as emotional distress and pain and suffering, can also be included in compensatory damages.

The other type of financial compensation that can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit is punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not designed to account for actual losses and injuries. In fact, punitive damages are not intended to provide for victims’ real financial hardships. Punitive damages serve in addition to or instead of criminal charges to hold liable parties accountable for their actions. Consequently, punitive damage awards can be much larger than compensatory damages and are much more controversial in nature. It is also worth noting that punitive damages are determined by a jury, and are generally reserved for cases involving gross negligence and/or blatant wrongdoing.

The specific circumstances of your wrongful death lawsuit would play a major role in determining whether it would be appropriate to pursue compensatory and/or punitive damages. Therefore, the information provided here cannot serve as legal counsel.

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