The Difference Between General Damages and Punitive Damages

When a victim is awarded a judgment in a personal injury case, it is for the purpose of helping the victim recover from their damages and losses they’ve wrongly suffered as a result of the accident. There are different kinds of damages in a personal injury case, some that compensate victims for pecuniary losses, and others that are meant to punish the negligent and serve as an example. Among all the possible types of damages, two common categories of damages awarded in accident cases are general damages and punitive damages.

Continue reading to learn the difference between the two, and what to do if you recently suffered serious injuries as a result of another’s negligence, recklessness or malicious intent.

Indiana Personal Injury Attorneys 317-881-2700
Indiana Personal Injury Attorneys 317-881-2700

General Damages

General damages fall under compensatory damages, also known as “actual” damages since they are calculated by traceable, quantifiable, and tangible losses. Such damages are awarded in a personal injury case to compensate a victim for the various financial losses they’ve suffered as a result of being negligently injured. Such losses that fall under general damages include hospital bills, medical expenses, lost work income, and sometimes legal fees and property damage.

General damages, also known as hedonic damages, are intended to compensate for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional examples of possible losses covered under general damages include permanent disfigurement or disability, prolonged physical therapy, loss of the ability to work, reduced quality of life, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and wrongful deaths.

Special Damages

In addition to compensatory and general damages, special damages compensate victims for quantifiable economic losses, such as lost wages, hospital bills, medical expenses, legal fees, and property damage. Special damages can also include incidental and future damages if evidence can prove future losses like prolonged therapy or loss of earning capacity.

Punitive Damages

Not only are personal injury victims compensated for their economic and non-economic losses, they might also be awarded extra compensation for punitive damages. Punitive damages are not meant to cover a physical or mental loss. Instead, they are awarded to punish the defendant and set an example to the public to thwart the particular type of conduct involved. You see, standard negligence is violating your general, lawful duty to act with reasonable care. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is this same disregard for your duty of care, but at an egregious level.

In most states, a victim can seek punitive damages if the negligent party is found to have demonstrated intentional misconduct, gross negligence or reckless indifference. Gross negligence refers to conduct that is reckless and demonstrates or represents a mindful disregard or lack of sympathy of another’s safety, health, life, or civil rights. In some states, it is only required to prove that the negligent party acted recklessly, maliciously, or deceitfully.

Examples of intentional misconduct and gross negligence:

A person drops a heavy rock from a highway bridge with the intent of hitting a passing car. The rock smashes into the windshield of a moving car, causing the driver to instantly lose control of their vehicle and wreck. The driver is seriously injured, and might be awarded punitive damages under the principal of intentional or reckless misconduct.

A building inspector informs a business owner that their roof is in dangerous condition, and orders that the hazardous areas be closed off to customers until they are repaired. The business owner fails to take any action, and later, the roof collapses on a group of customers, severely injuring them. These customers might be awarded punitive damages under the principle of gross negligence.

Where to Get Help With a Personal Injury Claim in Indianapolis

Call the Law Office of Craven, Hoover, and Blazek P.C. at 317-881-2700 for help with personal injury claims in Indianapolis, Indiana. Our experienced accident lawyers can help you obtain the settlement you deserve after suffering a serious injury. We offer free initial consultations and never collect attorney fees unless we prevail for you. Schedule your consultation before the statutes of limitations runs out on your claim. We represent injured persons throughout the State of Indiana.

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