How Do Punitive Damages Differ From Compensatory Damages?

When you pursue damages in a personal injury case and win, you are going to receive compensatory damages. Some cases can also result in punitive damages being awarded though. These are not meant to reimburse an accident victim but instead to punish someone for egregious behavior and warn others against emulating them. A Washington, D.C. defective product lawyer from our firm can tell you if your case might be one that can award these kinds of damages.

When Can You Pursue Punitive Damages?

You cannot win punitive damages when a defendant was simply negligent. You have to show that they were acting with wanton disregard for others or outright malice. This can be tough to prove. It’s also usually not the situation in most accident cases. Usually, someone was just negligent and their mistake led to someone getting harmed. This is why punitive damages are rarely awarded.

Are There Caps on Punitive Damages?

Depending on where you are suing for damages, there may or may not be a cap on punitive damages. Maryland and Washington, D.C. have no cap on the punitive damages that can be awarded. Virginia has a maximum cap of $350,000. If you are awarded more than that, your award will be lowered to $350,000. This won’t affect the amount of compensatory damages you are awarded.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Even if you cannot sue for punitive damages, you can ask for compensatory damages. These are meant to reimburse you for the expenses of the accident and make up for the trauma experienced. A compensation offer can be calculated with the following in mind:

  • Your medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Any loss of earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Pain from disability or disfigurement
  • Mental anguish
  • PTSD and anxiety
  • Any other pain and suffering

How Long Do I Have to Sue for Damages?

This also depends on where your lawsuit takes place. The statute of limitations means that you need to sue within a certain amount of time in order to recover damages. Wait too long and your case is likely to be thrown out. Be aware of these deadlines:

  • Virginia: Two years
  • Washington, D.C.: Three years
  • Maryland: Three years

There are some exceptions to this, like when an accident victim is a minor, but we recommend consulting an attorney as soon as possible.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Pursuing a personal injury case on your own can be difficult. You need to build a compelling case that proves that the defendant was negligent. Your situation can get even more complicated if there are multiple defendants or you believe that you are owed punitive damages. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can be helpful. We recommend at least meeting with our team before you decide to go it alone.

Talk to Our Legal Team

When you are ready to learn more about your legal options, contact Trombly & Singer, PLLC. We can schedule a free consultation for you and closely examine your case. We’re ready to help you fight for the compensation you deserve.