If so, you might have already realized just how quickly you can fall into debt and just how far your stress levels can rise. This is especially true if you needed to seek medical treatment for your injuries. And if the injuries were so severe that you found yourself unable to work normal hours, then you might have landed in an impossibly difficult financial situation that just seems to get worse and worse. When that happens, you might consider pursuing compensation for your lost wages and other expenses and injuries via a personal injury claim.
There are two main forms of damages your lawyer can help you pursue: punitive damages and compensatory damages. This is only the tip of the iceberg, however, as compensatory damages can be broken down even further to reference very specific issues. In order to have the best chance at receiving the kind of compensation you deserve, consider reaching out to experienced attorneys like those at Frederick and Hagle. We understand personal injury law, and we will work hard to ensure that your rights and needs are looked after.
Let’s take a look at the different forms of compensation available through personal injury claims and why you might or might not qualify for certain benefits depending upon the nature of your case.
Punitive vs. Compensatory Damages
Punitive damages and compensatory damages are not one in the same. In fact, each type of damage is awarded independently from the other by the jury or the judge in charge of listening to the case and coming to a decision. The differences between the two kinds of damages are as follows:
- Punitive Damages. These kinds of damages are saved for cases where purposeful acts of harm and malice, or even gross negligence so extreme that it borders on purposeful, are in play. They are also not necessarily considered compensation for the victim, but rather as a kind of punishment levied against the defendant. Note that these damages are still fairly controversial, however they have increased in popularity over the past few years and are more common than they used to be.
- Compensatory Damages. These damages are awarded to victims as a way to compensate for their time, medical costs, physical injuries, lost benefits or wages, damage to reputation, or emotional distress caused as a result of the accident in question. These damages are awarded as compensation to victims.
Comparative Negligence and Compensation
In the state of Illinois, comparative negligence is enforced in the courts. Comparative damage states that a party that has been injured in an accident and is seeking compensation can only collect damages if they are no more than 50% at fault for the injuries. If they are determined to have been even 51% responsible for them, then they will be unable to collect compensation via compensatory damages. In addition, the victim’s compensation will be reduced according to how “at fault” they were for the accident in question. That means that even if you are found to be 50% or less at fault for your own injuries, the amount of compensation you receive will go lower as your percentage of fault increases.
To put it more clearly, let’s take a situation where a victim would receive $50,000 in compensatory damages, but they have been found to be exactly 10% at fault for the injuries. The court will reduce their compensation accordingly by removing 10% of $50,000. That means that they will receive $5,000 less than they might have otherwise received had they not been found to be at fault.
If this sounds like a fairly big issue for victims, that is because it is! Many defense attorneys will seek to use the concept of comparative damages to lower the amount of compensation the victim receives. That is why it is important that victims seek out a skilled personal injury attorney familiar with comparative negligence in order to ensure they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.
It should be noted at this point that one major way victims can be found at fault for their injuries is via “assumption of risk”. This means that they willingly put themselves at risk of a known danger. If this is true of your case – or even if it isn’t – it is especially important to seek out an attorney to help you file and argue your claim.
Different Forms of Compensatory Damages
When it comes to compensatory damages, they can include one to three things. These include:
- Economic Damages
- Medical Costs
- Loss of Future Earnings
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Lost Wages
- Loss of Personal Property
- Legal Fees
- Loss in Value
- This is a loss in the victim’s overall performance, and is most commonly seen in breach of contract lawsuits.
- Non-Economic Damages
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Distress (Mental Anguish)
As briefly mentioned above, punitive damages are given when the jury or the judge find that the defendant deserves punishment for their actions. This is not the case in all claims. In fact, punitive damages are fairly rare except in the cases of malicious intent or gross negligence.
Punitive damages are awarded when certain factors are present. The defendant’s acts must have been reprehensible, for example, to the extent where they should serve as a public example warning others away from repeating their course of action. Other elements to look for include:
- More than simple negligence.
- Damages that are proportionate to the amount of compensatory damages awarded.
Punitive damage amounts are left up to the discretion of the judge in question, and rarely exceed four times what the victim was awarded in compensatory damages.
Reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney today!
For more information about your personal injury case and how we can help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled, reach out to us at Frederick and Hagle! Our knowledgeable and passionate attorneys are ready to help, and we offer free initial consultations! Contact us at 217.367.6092 or 800.642.1227 today!