Difference Between Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages

Collecting a settlement from a personal injury claim, you are looking to collect compensation for general damages. These general damages can refer to things like injuries or property damage and can be differentiated into two groups; compensatory damages and punitive damages. Understanding the differences between compensatory and punitive damages can be difficult.

When you are a victim of a Tennessee car accident, you are looking to collect compensation for both types of damages. In order to collect both types of damages, you will need a Tennessee personal injury lawyer to help you!

compensatory damages punitive damages

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are designed to award victims in personal injury cases with a settlement after the at-fault party was found negligent. These damages are awarded for these types of cases:

  • Car crashes
  • Truck crashes
  • Motorcycle crashes
  • Boating accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Workplace accidents

Compensatory damages include:

  • Current/past medical bills and future medical expenses
  • Property damages
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Future loss of income
  • Loss of irreplaceable items
  • Litigation services

Within compensatory damages, there are non-economic damages that are less tangible so they can get lost without the legal advice from Tennessee personal injury attorneys. These types of compensatory damages can be difficult to calculate when trying to receive a settlement.

According to the law TN Code 29-39-102, compensation for any non-economic damages suffered cannot exceed $750,000 or exceed the compensation for economic damages for each individual victim. This compensation would account for all current and future sufferings. These non-economic damages are:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement
  • Shortened life expectancy

Tennessee uses the multiplier to determine the settlement amount for non-economic damages. Once you discover the estimated total amount of the economic damages, you multiply that amount by a number between 1.5 and 5; the number is determined by the court. The 1.5 to 5 range depends on the severity of damages the victim sustained, 5 being the most severe.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are calculated alongside compensatory damages. These damages come with the intention of preventing others from being hurt by the same accidents in the future, kind of like punishing the defendant. The awarding of punitive damages can only be awarded by the court so it is important to keep that in mind.

Punitive damages are not present in all types of personal injury cases only these:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Intoxicated driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Defective products
  • Violation of anti-discrimination laws

According to Tennessee law TN Code 29-39-104, it states that the amount of compensation for punitive damages that are able to be awarded must consider the following: the defendant’s financial condition and net worth; the nature and reprehensibility of the defendant’s wrongdoing; the impact of the defendant’s conduct on the plaintiff; the defendant’s awareness of the amount of harm being caused; and if the defendant has been subjected to previous punitive damage awards based upon the same wrongful act.

The same law states that punitive damages can not exceed the amount equal to the greater of two times the total amount of compensatory damages or $500,000. Since punitive damages can only be awarded to a victim through a court, you will need a Tennessee personal injury attorney. Our Tennessee personal injury lawyers provide their clients with free consultations and will be able to identify if the client is entitled to both types of damages.

Punitive damages need to be proved using evidence in order to collect them in a settlement. A personal injury attorney will be able to gather the proper evidence needed to prove that the victim’s case is deserving of compensation for punitive damages.

About the Author

Michael Steinger
Michael Steinger

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MICHAEL S. STEINGER, founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner, believes in representing real people, not big businesses. Since the firm’s creation in 1997, Steinger, Greene & Feiner has never represented an insurance company or large corporation, and he vows to keep this promise. Over the course of his career, Michael has handled thousands of Florida accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients and earning him membership into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving laws protecting injury victims and their families, Michael is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Bar Associations, and sits on the Auto Insurance Committee of the Florida Justice Association.