Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages


Injured in a California accident? A Marin County personal injury attorney may be able to get you compensation for your injuries. Contact Wakeford Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation: (415) 569-7495

Overview of Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

When you are injured in an accident and awarded damages, there are several different types of damages you may be entitled to. Two types of damages you may be entitled to in California are compensatory and punitive damages.

While compensatory damages are meant to compensate a plaintiff for their injuries, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.

At Wakeford Law Firm, our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to fight for your rights and get you the damages you deserve.

We have helped countless accident victims obtain full recovery for their injuries. If you have been injured in an accident, contact us today for your consultation.

Compensatory Damages

In California, there are two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.

Economic, or pecuniary, damages are things like medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and anything else that can be assigned a dollar value.

Non-economic damages are more subjective and include things that cannot be assigned a dollar value, like pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.

While there is generally no cap on compensatory damages in California, some exceptions do exist. For example, there is a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

To fully understand your rights to compensatory damages in California, contact an experienced California personal injury attorney today.

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Punitive Damages

Punitive, or exemplary, damages are intended to punish the defendant for his actions and deter others from engaging in similar actions in the future.

Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages, not in lieu of them. In order to receive an award of punitive damages, a plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence that the plaintiff’s actions amounted to malice, oppression, or fraud.

The California Civil Code defines the above terms as follows:

● Clear and convincing evidence: In California, this phrase generally means that the plaintiff must prove each element of his or her claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Essentially, the plaintiff must show that it is more likely than not that each element of his or her claim is true. However, when it comes to punitive damages, “clear and convincing evidence” is an even higher standard than “preponderance of the evidence.”
● Malice: Malice is defined as any conduct intended to cause injury to another person or any despicable conduct performed with “willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”
● Oppression: Oppression is defined as despicable conduct that inflicts cruel and unjust hardship onto another.
● Fraud: Fraud includes actions like intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a known material fact that are performed with the intent of violating another’s rights or causing injury to another.

Unlike compensatory damages in California, there is no cap on punitive damages in personal injury cases in California. The only restriction is imposed by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits excessive and unfair imposition of fines.

Contact a Marin County Personal Injury Attorney If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact us immediately. At Wakeford Law Firm, our experienced Marin County personal injury attorneys have helped victims obtain full compensatory and punitive damages for their injuries.

Contact us online or at 415-569-7495 for a consultation today.

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