Punitive Damages vs. Compensatory Damages

Damages are awarded when you are injured due to someone’s negligence

Damages are a legal term for the money that a court awards you if you win your case. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you may request damages to compensate you for your injury and losses. In addition, you may request punitive damages.

Awarding damages is a way that courts ensure that you are fairly compensated when you are the victim of someone else’s negligence. Damages are also used to help ensure that the negligent behavior will not be repeated.

Compensatory damages are actual damages

You can request money to compensate you for your actual damage. This is called compensatory damages and there are two types:

Special damages. These are the damages that are relatively easy to calculate and document such as:

  • Past and future healthcare bills
  • Lost current and future income
  • Property damage
  • At-home care
  • Alternative transportation
  • Home modifications
  • Child care


General damages. These damages are harder to quantify and document. They may seem vague or subjective. General damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental illness
  • Anxiety and trauma
  • Loss of enjoyment from life
  • Physical impairment and disfigurement

An experienced Bronx personal injury lawyer can help you collect and review the documentation you need and help you get the compensatory damages you deserve.

Punitive damages are meant as a deterrent

In New York State, in addition to awarding you compensatory damages, the court can also determine that you are entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to communicate that the person (or business) responsible for your injury took actions that were intentionally bad. The court may award punitive damages if you were injured by someone who demonstrated:

  • Willful negligence
  • Maliciousness
  • Recklessness
  • Dishonest intentions or indifference
  • A disregard for the health, rights, or safety of others

Before the court awards you any damages, you must prove that your injury was the result of someone’s negligence. New York law has specific criteria for what is needed to prove negligence,

The key to collecting damages is proving negligence

Personal injury and medical malpractice claims can be difficult to prove in court because New York law has four specific elements needed to prove negligence:

  • Legal duty. You need to establish if the defendant had an obligation to act some way.
  • Breach of duty. This means that the defendant did not act in a way that was consistent with their obligations.
  • Injury. Even if you can prove there was a breach of duty by the defendant, if you were not injured, then legally, there was no negligence. You must prove that you were injured.
  • Cause of injury. Finally, you must prove that the injury is a result of the action (or inaction) of the negligent person.

If can be difficult to prove negligence according to the law. Your personal injury lawyer can help you collect the documentation and other evidence you will need to prove negligence and get fairly compensated for your injuries.

Get a free consultation with a Bronx personal injury and malpractice attorney

If you have been injured, Bronx attorney Evan W. Kohn can help you take action and fight for the compensatory and punitive damages you deserve when medical professionals were negligent. To schedule a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn online or call 718-409-5500.

Attorney Evan Kohn
About the Author: Evan Kohn
Evan W. Kohn is an experienced personal injury attorney serving the New York City area. He handles cases ranging from auto accidents to personal injury, Slip and falls, truck accidents, and medical malpractice.