Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages: What’s the Difference?

May 27th, 2010 by Farhan Naqvi in Personal Injury

If someone you love has died due to the negligence of another party, then you may be entitled to wrongful death compensation. There are two different categories of damages which juries may award in Nevada wrongful death lawsuits.

The most common type of award is known as compensatory damages, which are designed to cover costs associated with your loved one’s death. These may include:

  • Burial and funeral costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages and benefits from future employment
  • Loss of consortium
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering

So while some compensatory damages are simply expenses that are reimbursable, others (like mental anguish and pain and suffering) are more subjective.

The other type is called punitive damages. Juries can award punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit if they feel that the person, company or group which caused the death was intentional, reckless or grossly negligent in its actions (or inaction).

The purpose of punitive damages is to incentivize a defendant to make sure that a similar occurrence never happens again. So when punitive damages are awarded it is not uncommon for the amount to be in the millions (or even billions) of dollars.

Punitive damages can be awarded in wrongful death cases where:

  • Drug companies’ medications kill individuals who took them as directed
  • Doctors, nurses, or other health care providers commit gross medical malpractice
  • Manufacturing plants introduce harmful substances into the soil or water that resulted in someone’s death
  • Drunk drivers with multiple offenses kill a motorist or pedestrian

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