The right of some hurt in a car accident or other personal injury to receive punitive damages in Arizona injury claims might be among the most misunderstood concepts to the average person. As Arizona personal injury lawyers who help people after accidents receive full compensation for their injuries whenever possible, we know the difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages can be confusing.
Speaking in general terms, compensatory damages allow somebody to be reimbursed or compensated for a loss that they have suffered. The purpose of general damages, also called compensatory damages, is simply to “make the injury victim whole.”
For instance, when we represent people who are injured in car accidents in Arizona, as injury lawyers we help them receive full repayment of all the medical bills they incurred. People who have lost time from work because they were injured in an auto accident in Phoenix want to make sure that they get the money back that they lost from work. This includes overtime pay and reimbursement for all lost wages, in addition to anything that may have been partially reimbursed by Phoenix workers’ compensation claims.
Also, many people will have multiple out of pocket expenses that come about as a result of being injured. Even what is often called pain and suffering for personal injury claims in Arizona – or the loss of enjoyment of life and the frustration and the pain that comes from being injured – are all part of compensatory damages. This is a claim that basically says that somebody else was negligent in an Arizona case and that you have the right to receive compensation. However, even in cases where somebody has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of current and future wages because they will never work again, this is not a punitive damages claim in Arizona. This is a very significant claim that is undoubtedly vital for the person who has been badly hurt because of somebody else’s negligence. However, that does not make it punitive damages.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer. They are different from compensatory damages because in a punitive damages situation you are not asking for money to compensate the person who was hurt for their loss, but to teach a lesson to the person who intentionally caused injury to somebody else. In Arizona, punitive damages are awarded where one can show that a defendant acted with a “evil hand and evil mind” and it is in these cases where money is not just awarded to compensate the person who was injured in an Arizona personal injury claim, but a fine – punitive damages from the jury – is levied against the wrongdoer to teach that insurance company, corporation, person, or other evil actor and all others who may consider acting in that way that they should never do that again or they will receive these harsh penalties.
Determining whether or not punitive damages are available in any individual case requires a knowledgeable and skilled Phoenix personal injury lawyer. Oftentimes, it will take finding the best possible Arizona personal injury lawyer to find somebody who has pursued cases that include punitive damages. Arizona cases with punitive damages are not common, and in fact making sure that you have a valid punitive damages claim before pursuing it can be vital to avoid possible sanctions.
If you or anybody you know has been injured and asks questions as to whether or not they may be entitled to punitive damages, we encourage you to give us a call. We are always happy to answer these questions and give honest answers so that people who have been seriously hurt have the information they need to make the right decision in terms of whether to pursue compensatory damages claims, punitive damages claims, or any other Arizona personal injury case.