Slate’s Law Blog

What is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

What is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

When you have been injured and are filing a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering about damages and the differences between compensatory and punitive damages. Can you seek just one type of damages award, or are there multiple options available to you? One of our Santa Fe personal injury attorneys can help.

Compensatory Damages Are Designed to Compensate a Plaintiff for Losses

New Mexico law has two kinds of compensatory damages in personal injury cases, and both are aimed at compensating a plaintiff for their losses. Typically, a plaintiff can seek economic damages, which are a form of compensatory damages that compensate a plaintiff for objective financial losses, such as hospital bills, prescription medication costs, or lost earnings. Non-economic damages are another type of compensatory damages, but these are more subjective in nature. Non-economic damages are designed to compensate a plaintiff for indirect losses that can be difficult to quantify, like a person’s loss of enjoyment of life or a person’s pain and suffering.

In medical malpractice cases, the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act caps a plaintiff’s damages at $600,000, excluding the plaintiff’s medical costs and punitive damages.

Punitive Damages are Designed to Punish a Defendant for Particularly Bad Behavior

Punitive damages in New Mexico are also paid to the plaintiff, but they are not intended to provide compensation. Rather, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant’s especially harmful or egregious behavior or reckless behavior that showed a disregard for the safety and well-being of others. Punitive damages are not typically sought in personal injury cases based on the defendant’s negligence. However, when a defendant’s harmful actions were intentional, or when the defendant acted especially recklessly, it may be possible for the plaintiff to seek punitive damages.

Insurance Payouts Can Also Compensate an Injured Person

You should also know that, in addition to compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to obtain compensation by filing an insurance claim after some types of accidents and injuries in New Mexico. In most cases, an insurance claim will come before you file a personal injury lawsuit. However, insurance claims are not possible in all types of injury cases. For most people who suffer injuries in accidents, insurance claims are possible in car accidents, truck accidents, or motorcycle accidents. In some cases, it may be possible to file an insurance claim after a premises liability accident, such as a slip and fall accident. You should speak with a personal injury lawyer about your options for filing an insurance claim to seek compensation for your losses.

Contact a Santa Fe Personal Injury Attorney Today

After any type of accident or incident in which you get hurt, it is important to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer about seeking damages and compensation for your losses. Depending upon the details of your case, you may be able to obtain a payout by filing an insurance claim, or you could be eligible for compensatory or punitive damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Contact Slate Stern Law for more information.