Woman filing personal injury claim

What are Compensatory Damages?

By David Hammond

Being injured in an accident can take its toll physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Medical bills can reach staggering heights. You may be missing out on work due to your injuries and necessary recovery period. All of this can compound to spell significant stress for your finances. Through a personal injury claim, fortunately, you may be able to recover full and fair compensation for the financial toll, as well as other harm, sustained as a result of the accident caused by the negligence of someone else. The bulk of a personal injury award is, most times, compensatory damages. We’ll take a closer look at compensatory damages, what they are, and what they include here.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

For the losses sustained and the harm suffered in an accident, compensatory damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff. In fact, compensatory damages are often awarded in civil cases where the negligence or recklessness of someone else has resulted in another sustaining a loss. Compensatory damages will likely be awarded when the plaintiff, the injured party, can prove negligence on the part of the defendant. To prove negligence, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the defendant owed them a duty of care, that duty was breached, and the breach of that duty was the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff sustaining damages.

The plaintiff must be able to quantify or put a number, on the amount of damages or loss sustained as a result of the defendant’s negligence. The appropriately named compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for that which was lost and suffered as a result of the accident. The bulk of a compensatory damage award is likely to include medical bills, among other costs incurred as a result of being injured in the accident. Things included in a compensatory damage award may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Physical therapy expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Increases in living expenses

Transportation to and from such things as doctors’ appointments are also compensable in a personal injury claim. Costs associated with home care for injury victims as well as modifying a home to meet the needs of a person physically disabled by their accident injuries are also compensable.

The above-mentioned damages are considered to be economic damages includable in a compensatory damages award. They are referred to as economic damages because they represent easily quantifiable economic losses sustained by the plaintiff. There are also non-economic compensatory damages available in most personal injury claims. Non-economic damages pose just as real an impact on the injury victim but can prove exceedingly difficult to quantify. Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of opportunity
  • Loss of consortium
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

It is important to remember that compensatory damages will likely make up the bulk, if not all, of the available damages in a personal injury case. In some cases, punitive damages may be available, but this is pretty rare. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for harm suffered. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior that resulted in harm suffered by the plaintiff. Punitive damages are meant to deter such conduct from occurring again.

Syracuse Personal Injury Attorneys

The team at CDH Law is here to help you get the compensation you deserve for harm suffered in an accident. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.