What Are Compensatory Damages?

November 4, 2018 — by Mark T. Flickinger, JD
Tags: Compensatory Damages Personal Injury Wrongful Death

The steps of a court buildingIn civil cases, damages are a monetary award to a plaintiff, rewarded when a defendant has been found negligent for the incident that occurred. In personal injury cases, these damages area given to the injured party and/or their loved ones when the defendant has been found negligent in their actions and liable for the injury occurring. Our Provo, UT personal injury attorneys always look out for the client's best interests, and help them understand what is covered by legal damages.

Compensatory damages are essential following an injury accident, as they help cover losses associated with the incident. The attorneys of Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton would like to cover the basics about these matters below.

Types of Legal Damages

There are two kinds of legal damages in civil cases:

  • Compensatory Damages - These damages are intended to cover material and financial losses associated with an accident occurring.
  • Punitive Damages - These damages are intended to punish the negligent party for their actions; not linked to any actual loss but the nature of the incident.

While our primary focus will be on compensatory damages, we will include some additional insight into punitive damages to give you a better understanding of how each function differently.

What Is Covered by Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages can cover a whole host of expenses and losses. This may include the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Damage to property
  • Lost wages
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Psychological counseling/therapy
  • Lost future earning potential

During a discussion with your attorney, you can determine whether or not an injury-related expenditure should be sought in compensatory damages against a client.

An Example of Compensatory Damages in an Injury Case

As an example, let’s say that a woman is seriously injured in an accident with a large truck. The accident has resulted in a broken leg, a herniated disc, and a concussion, and her vehicle is totaled in the process. Thankfully she has survived the accident, but healing will require time.

Compensatory damages will cover her medical expenses and any need for physical therapy to help with the full recover process. Compensatory damages will also cover the market value of her vehicle, which must now be replaced. Since she will not be able to work as she is recovering from her injuries, compensatory damages will also cover any lost wages she experienced during this time. Should the accident result in reduced mobility or ability to perform certain tasks essential to this woman’s career, compensatory damages will also cover this loss in future earning potential because of the limitations imposed on her as a result of injury.

Compensatory Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

If you lose a loved one in an accident, compensatory damages can also be sought as part of a wrongful death lawsuit. In these instances, the compensatory damages will cover funerary costs, grief counseling, and emotional pain and suffering associated with the death of a loved one.

Calculating Compensatory Damages

To calculate compensatory damages, your lawyer will go over bills, receipts, and invoices related to various losses associated with the incident. For future earnings, the amount can be estimated and calculated fairly, in a manner that conservatively considers the expected increase in wages or salary over time.

This differs from punitive damages, which are not linked to any sort of material losses and must instead be determined using similar cases as a guide.

Disputes Over What Qualifies as Compensatory Damages

There are sometimes disputes over the amount of compensatory damages sought, or if an expense really is covered by compensatory damages. Should these kinds of issues arise, it’s essential that you speak with your attorney about these matters. The legal insight they can provide will prove essential for these matters.

Speak with Experienced Attorneys About Your Case

For more information about your legal rights and options in a legal case, be sure to contact our experienced personal injury and accident lawyers. We are here to help. You can reach the Provo office of Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton at (801) 753-1616.