Criminal courts serve as a means of punishing wrongdoers for their actions, but a state’s civil justice system focuses on tort law, a branch of the justice system aimed not at punishing an individual’s actions but as a means of legal recourse for victims who suffer losses due to the actions of another. When someone else’s reckless actions or gross negligence causes injuries and the various consequences that come with those injuries, the civil court offers victims a means of recovering their losses as well as a sense of justice by awarding compensatory damages.
What Are Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In civil court, the word “damages” refers to the consequences of an injury. The court views these in two categories:
- Economic damages: these are the tangible losses a victim experiences after an injury such as medical expenses, related costs, lost wages, lowered earning capacity due to injury-related disability, and any property damage that occurred in the same incident
- Non-economic damages: these are intangible but equally significant consequences of an injury such as pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, and sometimes other consequences such as disfigurement or traumatic limb loss
Both economic and non-economic damages in personal injury claims serve to compensate the victim for the losses they experience as a direct result of an injury. Compensatory damages are usually paid to the victim through the appropriate insurance policy of the party at fault. For instance, the auto insurance of a negligent driver after a car accident or the property insurance of a dog owner whose dog bites a delivery worker.
When Does An Injury Qualify for a Claim for Compensatory Damages?
In order to make a successful claim for compensatory damages after an injury, the victim bears the burden of proving the at-fault party’s liability through a preponderance of the evidence. This means showing that it’s more likely than not that the at-fault party caused the injury and related damages. To gain compensatory damages first requires demonstrating the at-fault party’s liability. In tort law, this necessitates demonstrating that negligence caused the accident by documenting evidence of the following legal points of liability:
- That the at-fault party owed a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent injury, such as a driver’s duty to obey traffic laws or a store owner’s duty to address fall hazards inside their business
- They breached this duty of care by acting negligently, recklessly, or with intentional wrongdoing
- The negligent breach of duty directly caused the injury
- The injury victim suffered significant economic and non-economic damages from the injury
We all owe a general duty of care to prevent causing harm to others. When someone’s negligence causes injury to another, they are responsible for damages. Courts award injury victims compensatory damages as a means of legal recourse to right a wrong.
What Are Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Laws?
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages don’t compensate victims for their losses but instead, serve as a punishment to wrongdoers and a deterrent to future repeats of the behavior. Courts only award victims punitive damages if their injuries result from egregious recklessness without regard for the consequences to others or from intentional wrongdoing.
Contact Ciancio Ciancio Brown, P.C. Today
If you need help understanding the complexities of Colorado personal injury law or if you have been seriously injured due to someone’s negligence, contact a Westminster personal injury attorney from Ciancio Ciancio Brown P.C. today.