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What is the Difference Between Compensatory & Punitive Damages?

November 4, 2021

Anytime a person sustains an injury caused by the actions of another individual, business, or entity, they should be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, there are different types of damages available after an injury occurs. Most commonly, individuals will receive compensatory damages, which can be broken down into economic and non-economic. However, there are times when punitive damages are awarded in a personal injury case. Here, we want to discuss the difference between compensatory and punitive damages in Kentucky personal injury claims.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are any money that is awarded to a plaintiff who is successful in their lawsuit against another party. These damages are awarded through a civil court process after an individual has sustained a loss due to the careless, negligent, or unlawful actions of another party. 

In order for a person to receive compensatory damages, they will have to prove that they sustained a loss caused by the defendant (the at-fault party). The plaintiff must also be able to quantify the total amount of loss for a jury or judge.

There are various types of compensatory damages that could be available to plaintiffs in Kentucky, particularly for partial injury claims. This includes both economic and non-economic damages.

When we discuss economic damages, these are also referred to as “special damages” and revolve around expenses that are relatively calculable after an injury occurs. This includes:

  • Medical bills associated with the injury
  • Lost income if an injury victim cannot work
  • Property damage expenses caused by the incident
  • Various household out-of-pocket losses

Non-economic damages are referred to as “general damages” and revolve around more immeasurable expenses that an injury victim may sustain. These are immeasurable because there are typically no direct bills or receipts that can be gathered and added up to find a non-economic total. When discussing non-economic compensatory damages, we are typically referring to a person’s:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional and psychological pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life damages
  • Loss of consortium damages for a spouse or family members 

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are not always awarded in Kentucky personal injury claims. Under Kentucky law, punitive or exemplary damages means “damages awarded against a person to punish and discourage him and others from similar conduct in the future.”

Punitive damages act as both a punishment against the individual who caused the injury as well as a deterrent to others. In general, the courts will not allow these damages unless the actions of the at-fault party were particularly egregious or intentional.

Work With an Attorney

If you or somebody you love has sustained an injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual or entity in Kentucky, reach out to an attorney immediately. A skilled personal injury lawyer can conduct a complete investigation into your case and help you recover total compensation for your losses, including coverage of economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages if they are relevant to the case. There are currently no caps, or limitations, on the amount of money individuals can be awarded for compensatory or punitive damages in Kentucky.