The right to punitive damages is among the most misunderstood concepts in Arizona law. As Arizona personal injury lawyers, we want to illuminate the confusion between compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages simply allow reimbursement for a loss. The purpose of compensatory, or general, damages is to make the injury victim whole. What is often called pain and suffering– or the loss of enjoyment of life– is a part of compensatory damages.
When we represent those injured in car accidents in Arizona, one big priority is full repayment of the medical expenses incurred. Claimants who lose time from work due to injury in an auto accident in Phoenix need to recover lost wages– including overtime pay– to survive even if they’ve been partially reimbursed by Phoenix workers’ compensation claims. Even when hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages are lost because the victim will never work again, these aspects are all covered by compensatory damages.
Punitive damages punish. Their purpose is not to compensate the person who was hurt, but to teach a lesson when someone intentionally causes injury. In Arizona, punitive damages are awarded when it’s shown that the defendant acted with an “evil hand and evil mind.” In these cases the jury levies a fine to punish and to deter others from committing similarly negligent acts.
Determining whether or not punitive damages are available requires a skilled Phoenix personal injury lawyer. Punitive damages are uncommon in Arizona, and not all attorneys have experience.