COVID-19 Notice: Malman Law’s staff is working at office & from home so that we can do our part to fight the spread of this virus within our community.

Learn more x
Free Consultations | Tap To Call Today: 1.888.625.6265

Speak to a Lawyer 24hrs a Day

1.888.625.6265

Free Consultation, Call Now!

CHICAGO

Accident Attorney Explains the Difference in Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages

Premier Personal Injury Attorneys
Schedule Free Case Review

Dedicated Chicago Accident Attorney Explains the Difference in Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages

Chicago Accident Attorney Explains the Difference in Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages

After an accident, you might find yourself inundated with endless expenses. Naturally, because of your injuries, you are working less or not at all. So, you seek compensation to cover those medical costs, property damage, and your loss of income. In order to get compensation, you file a personal injury claim, wherein you seek damages. Damages come in two broad categories: Compensatory and punitive.

From there, compensatory damages are further broken down, while punitive damages stay relatively simple. Despite how many various forms of compensation are available to you, it is critical to understand that not all claims qualify for the same benefits. Furthermore, your case might receive more or less than a similar accident, based on the facts, evidence, and so forth.

Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages: A Quick Look

Compensatory and punitive damages are not the same. Each is awarded separately by the judge or jury overseeing the case. When examining these forms of damages, there are two distinct differences:

  • Compensatory Damages – Tort law provides for private parties seeking compensation after an injury. They recover compensatory damages because of tort. Depending on the evidence and facts, damages may be available for physical injuries, medical costs, lost wages or benefits, the harm of intangible property, reputation, and physical or emotional distress.
  • Punitive Damages – When a defendant’s actions are bad, the injured victim might recover punitive damages. However, these are reserved for instances of extreme gross negligence or purposeful acts. Furthermore, punitive damages are not given to the victim as a way to compensate; instead, they serve as punishment for the defendant and as a symbol of what happens to others who attempt similar acts. Punitive damages are highly controversial, but have grown in popularity.

Comparative Negligence and Compensatory Damages

The state of Illinois deploys the comparative negligence rule. This affects a person’s compensation in a personal injury claim. Under the modified comparative negligence and pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1116, an injured party can recover damages only if they are 50 percent or less at fault for their injuries. If the judge or jury determines that they are 51 percent or higher, they cannot collect compensatory damages.

If a victim has any percentage of fault assigned to him or her under modified comparative fault law, that percentage will reduce compensatory damages. For example, say a victim is provided $100,000 in compensatory damages, but the courts determine him or her to be 10 percent at fault for injuries. Therefore, 10 percent of the $100,000, or $20,000, is deducted from the settlement and the victim receives $90,000. Victims might have a percentage of comparative negligence assigned if they fail to exercise reasonable care for their safety.

Sadly, many defense attorneys use comparative negligence as a defense to lower a victim’s compensation. It is important, then, that an accident victim seeks legal representation to ensure the settlement is not decreased based on a false argument from the defense.

Assumption of Risk and Compensatory Damages

Another defense that might lessen or eliminate compensatory damages is the “assumption of risk” theory. This means that the victim voluntarily consented to a known danger. Therefore, the defense might argue that they should not be liable for damages because an assumption of risk was present.

Exploring Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages consist of one to three possible items, including:

Loss in Value

The loss in value of the plaintiff’s performance – a performance they have the right to expect – is assessed. This is typically seen in a breach of contract lawsuit, and not used in accident claims.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the direct result of the negligent act. These damages are easily calculated and refer to tangible losses that the plaintiff endures. Often, the plaintiff has bills and receipts for these costs, making it easy to prove the losses to the court.

Some forms of economic damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical Costs – Including surgeries, hospitalizations, treatments, follow-up care, emergency room care, pharmacy services, medical equipment, and any other medical treatment or procedure associated with the accident.
  • Loss of Wages – Includes all lost income the plaintiff endures because he or she is unable to work while recovering from the injuries. This also includes any wages lost to attend doctor’s appointments and court hearings.
  • Loss of Future Earnings or Loss of Earning Capacity – This is reserved for plaintiffs who are partially or permanently disabled and either cannot work or cannot function in the same earning bracket as before. Future wages are compensated.
  • Loss of Personal Property – Personal property might be lost or damaged in an accident, so the victim receives the market value of those items.
  • Legal or Attorney Fees – Attorney fees, costs for travel, and court fees are included in this compensation calculation.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are those that cover intangible costs endured by the plaintiff. These non-economic damages do not have receipts; they are usually projected by multipliers of the economic damages.

Some forms of non-economic damages might include:

  • Pain and Suffering – Pain and suffering are the damages awarded to a plaintiff for physical and mental pain. These are difficult to calculate because it is hard to put a price on someone’s suffering – or prove that such suffering exists.
  • Emotional Distress – Emotional distress, also referred to as mental anguish, is very serious. It is common after an accident, especially a catastrophic injury, to suffer from emotional distress. Some forms of distress include PTSD, anxiety, depression, and so on. A loss of enjoyment of life or hobbies can also be included in emotional distress damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are awarded when the judge or jury feels the defendant’s actions warrant punishment. Not all cases qualify for punitive damages, and rarely are they seen unless there was gross negligence or malicious intent. A minuscule margin of personal injury cases see punitive damages, and these are often just a few thousand dollars, while there are rare instances of million-dollar punitive damage awards.

Some infamous cases where punitive damages were awarded include:

  • Philip Morris USA vs. Williams
  • State Farm Auto Insurance v. Campbell
  • BMW of North America v. Gore

When Are Punitive Damages Awarded?

In rare instances when punitive damages are awarded, certain factors must be present. The acts of the defense must be reprehensible, and the defendant will serve as a public punishment example.

Certain elements which the court looks for when awarding punitive damages include:

  • Other Damages – First, the plaintiff must receive other forms of damages, such as compensatory damages, to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are not awarded alone.
  • More than Negligent Acts – The defendant’s actions must be more than simple negligence. Instead, the actions must be intentional, malicious, or extremely negligent.
  • Relative Proportions – The punitive damages must be in relative proportions to the compensatory damages. In excessive amounts, the punitive damage award could be considered unconstitutional.

How Punitive Damages Are Calculated

The courts do not have a specific calculation or formula for picking punitive damages. Naturally, the more harm and compensatory damages the plaintiff has, the higher the punitive award might be. Also, there are no limitations in Illinois on the maximum damages allowed in punitive form. However, the courts have struck down excessive awards. A single digit multiplier is more likely than double-digit multipliers to apply to punitive damages. However, the statute has no definition of “proportions” – thus, this leaves it to the discretion of the judge.

Typically, the punitive damages will not exceed four times the compensatory damage value. Therefore, if a plaintiff receives $100,000 in compensatory damages, the punitive damages would not exceed $400,000. Larger ratios, such as 10:1, are labeled unconstitutional.

Other Factors that Affect Punitive Damages

Other factors are taken into consideration by the court when determining punitive damages. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The extent of the defendant’s actions.
  • The difference of harm suffered by the plaintiff compared to the damage amount requested.
  • Amounts of punitive damages awarded in similar cases from case law.

High amounts of punitive damages are only awarded in special cases, such as:

  • Cases with non-economic damages so substantial that they are too difficult to calculate.
  • Injuries that are difficult to prove, but have other forms of evidence.
  • Conduct by the defendant that was extremely offensive.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney in Chicago to Learn About Your Compensation

After your injury, it is imperative that you speak with a personal injury attorney in Chicago. Malman Law’s team of injury advocates will help calculate what damages you are entitled to, and discuss options for the types of damages you might claim.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an injury attorney from Malman Law today. You can contact an attorney 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Call now or ask us a question online.

  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image
  • Image

Contact Chicago’s Personal Injury Lawyer

If you believe that your loved one has suffered in Chicago, contact Malman Law right away.
Schedule Free Case Review

Why People Choose Malman Law

You’ll want your lawyers to be this good.
You’ll want our experience on your side.
  • Icon

    Credibility & Experience

    25,000+ Cases over 25 Years
  • Icon

    Track Record of Success

    25,000+ Cases over 25 Years
  • Icon

    Team of Litigation Lawyers

    25,000+ Cases over 25 Years
  • img

    They area very helpful and when it come to getting things done with your case I had the pleasureof working with Jason Kellerman he was awesome I highly recommend them.

    - Britany Weaver

  • img

    I’m very pleased to recommend Malman Law to my friends and relatives! I have to mention how efficient and professional in dealing with my case has been with everyone that I’ve been in contact with at Malman Law. Mrs. Sabo is outstanding as well as her secretary and assistant in responding quickly to any of my questions or concerns. This firm has gone above and beyond to keep me updated and get answers to my questions at any time, weekends included! Malman Law rules in my opinion!

    - Cheryl Wagemann

  • img

    I’ve been knowing about this Law firm for many years through friends, referrals & advertisements , never I thought I would need their services , because I believed things & situations don’t happen to me like this , long story short I was in situation that I needed help & advice!!! The right direction , I connected with the Firm & a very patient , understanding professional woman by the name of Margie assisted me in what I needed 🙂 Thank you I will refer as I was as referred as well This firm really does care !

    - Elvira G.

  • img

    I was rear-ended by a semi-truck on my way to work. I was transported to the hospital and my car was totaled. In the aftermath, Dan Petrich and Anna Schmidt from Malman Law helped me get set up with physical therapy and negotiated with the insurance companies to make sure the resulting settlement would cover my medical bills and a rental car until I could get a new car. I would highly recommend their services.

    would do everything they could for me.

    - Tony S.

  • img

    I contacted Malman Law go my work injury. So professional from my first phone call. Mr. Malman’s investigator, Dan, came right out to our home. Everything was explained in detail so I know what to expect during this process. I certainly recommend anyone ever in need of a personal injury lawyer to call Malman Law. Truly the best!! Thanks everyone!

    - Devin Jones

  • img

    Attorney Greg Lamorena was my lawyer when I slipped and fell. He kept me updated throughout the case and was always available to talk when I had questions. He is a great lawyer and could not be happier about my settlement!

    - Annie Ong

  • img

    Alexis was the attorney on my case! She kept me in the loop about everything with my case. If I had any concerns I was able to contact her and she’ll answer my questions right away. If your interested in working with Malman Law I would highly recommend Alexis she was GREAT. I would highly recommend Malman Law if you’re ever in need!

    - Eugenia Cathery

  • img

    They are so efficient and professional.Always available to help.Attoney Boyer was great and very good with my case.I really appreciate mailman law firm. I gave them 5 star because there is nothing higher.

    - Omolewa Snyder

  • img

    I have had an amazing experiences with Malman law so far. From the start Dan was super easy to work with, got me the medical attention I needed and fast. Couldn’t ask for better communication. Neil Kilcoyne has been nothing but the best I could not recommend a better attorney. Malman Law is a 10 out of 10 law firm.

    - Trevor Harris

  • img

    Hi I just want to acknowledge Jay McCarron, Kelly & the Firm at Malman Law for representing me as they continue to work on my case. Thanks for keeping me updated & responding quickly to any of my questions or concerns. I would Highly recommend you and your firm to friends & family. E. P.

    - Ernest Pitts

  • img

    Alexis was the attorney on my case and she was GREAT. She made sure I was updated on everything about my case. I would highly recommend Malman Law if you’re ever in need.

    - Ariel Fleming

  • img

    I had the best experience with Jason and Jay attorneys from Malman Law they really went all the way to settle my case I’m telling you there just the best!! Recommend 100%!

    - Carmen Rivera

  • img

    Adam Meadow acted as the attorney for a family member who was in a car accident. He was highly personable and actively listened to our issues throughout the litigation process. He was able to get us a settlement for the repairations of the accident. We would recommend their services!

    - Greg Gustafson

  • img

    Excellent customer service and great experience. Malman law handled the whole process and it was very smooth. The settlement was a great success. I would choose malman law again in the future.

    - Malak St.Clair

  • img

    Helped me out of a big jam when my auto was hit twice when and the other drivers had no insurance. Adam Meadow is the only Lawyer I will call for helping me an my daughter.

    - Devri Lott

  • img

    I cannot give enough praise to the team at Malman Law, for helping with my case . My children were involved in a auto collision and the attorney Adam along with his paralegal Michelle worked diligently until the matter was resolved and my entire family was happy. I would definitely recommend Malman Law for anybody going through legal troubles.

    - Adrian Lopez

  • img

    A close friend recommended me to Malman Law. I currently have a case with them due to a car accident I had and ever since the accident they have been taking care of everything for me without me having to worry about anything. They took care of the medical bills & helped me get physical therapy right away. I highly recommend them.

    - Vanessa Leon

  • img

    Bella Feinstein, Jason Kellerman, and Terry Davey, have been instrumental in helping me though many difficult situations. Not only did they work to get my mom a settlement, they have continued to help me through the legal process of relocating my mom to a different state. I’m very grateful for their hard work and good advice.

    - Nyah Vuljanic

  • img

    This law firm is the best they got me paid and meymen law kept in constant communication with me which meant a lot to me I would highly recommend this law firm to anyone who. In the position they are awesome sincerely. Jeff walker

    - Jeff Walker

  • img

    Mr. Kellerman of Malman Law shows compassion for his clients. Returns calls and emails promptly, takes time to listens to his clients and gather facts accordingly.

    - Steve Acosta

  • img

    Everyone at Malman Law made me feel welcomed and heard. My lawyer, Adam Meadow, as well as staff kept me up to date and were more than happy to do so! I would highly recommend their services. Also- a plus is many employees are fluent in Spanish. My experience was easy and worthwhile.

    - Adrianna Gomez

  • img

    Dan Petrich was the best man for my case of falling through my porch of a apartment I rented. He made sure I got what I deserved not only $ wise but medical wise and that my hospital bills and Dr bills were left at a $0 balance before closing my case. I was definitely happy and glad I choose him. Thank you. 5 stars

    - Jose Cruz

  • img

    Steve Malman helped me with my auto case. He quickly responded and answered any and all the questions I had. My case was a success as well as 2 other family members I recommended to him won their cases as well. Definitely a 5 star!

    - Meagan Cruz

  • img
    Malman Law goes above and beyond handling your legal injury case needs. From the first appointment through to the ending verdict my sister and brother in law were very happy with their case results. Highly recommended!

    - Eddie Villarreal

  • img

    I am very impressed with Malman Law and my experience with Tiffany Alberty. She was very professional and knowledgeable. I appreciate the great communication and never felt out of the loop. She was very patient and hard working on my case. I would highly recommend this firm. Thanks for the hard work and all your help!

    - Madissen Miller

  • img

    Malman Law is definitely professionals and skilled at what they do. Mr. Adam Meadow always kept me informed and never hesitated to answer my questions and was open to hearing my concerns. Wouldn’t think twice about referring them to family and friends. Thank you to all at Malman Law!

    - Christina Ocon

  • img

    Mailman Law, Excellent firm!! Tiffany Alberty and her assistant Margie Gallegos were super efficient and knowledgeable. Great communication—very quick response and great follow up! My case was resolved sooner than expected. I highly recommend them!

    - Adriana Martinez

  • img

    So glad I contacted malman law regarding my accident. Professional and caring. Thank you Mr Malman. I most definitely recommend to anyone if you need the best to call Malman Law!!!

    - Virgil Sanner

  • img

    I really appreciated and enjoyed Yennin Calderon’s service. I called asking questions and she was so helpful. Not only did she answer all my questions and concerns. It was also a bonus that she was bilingual in Spanish! Loved the warmth she brought. Thank you!

    - Jazlyn Caraballo

  • img

    My experience with Malman Law was great. I worked with Attorney Tiffany Alberty and her assistant Margie. Both communicated what was going on with my case, explained next steps and got my case to resolved early. I would highly recommend Malman Law.

    - Ashley Jenkins

View more testimonials
img

What’s your case worth? Submit for a free case review

ALL FIELDS REQUIRED

2 years ago I was involved in a trucking accident involving a 14-wheeler truck that nearly disabled me for life. Steve fought to make sure that I received the most possible compensation for my injuries. I was about to take the insurance company’s lowball offer, but decided to call Steve first – it was the best decision I’ve made yet

NOAH TAFFELPersonal Injury Victim