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Compensatory Damages

What is Compensatory Damages?

A wrongdoer pays compensation to a victim in a personal injury case to compensate the victim for losses. Punitive damages, on the other hand,

are meant to punish the defendant for similar behavior and discourage others from doing the same.


There are two basic types of compensatory damages in California accident or injury cases: economic (pecuniary) damages, such as medical bills,

property damage, and lost wages that can be measured in dollars, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering that is more difficult to

quantify. The purpose of compensatory damages is to reimburse victims for their losses.

Economic Damages In Personal Injury Cases

Economic Damages In Personal Injury Cases

An "economic damage" is a loss that can be represented by a monetary value. Economics damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenditures he or she has made or will have to make in the future. Affected individuals often suffer economic losses, such as medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and lost earning potential.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-Economic Damages

The term "non-economic damages" refers to those that do not necessarily involve out-of-pocket expenses. Damages that do not have an economic value include subjective losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, physical impairment (such as the loss of use of a limb or organ), disfigurement, unjust hardships, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Damage Limits 

Damage Limits 

Personal injury cases in California do not have a cap on compensatory damages. In a car accident case, a slip and fall case, or in other accident cases, the jury (or the judge) can award any fair and reasonable sum.


There are exceptions to this rule, however. Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages are capped at $250,000 in a medical malpractice case in California. A cap is in place regardless of the severity of the injury or the number of defendants. It has been upheld as constitutional by the California Supreme Court.


The plaintiff may be able to sue based on other theories of liability (such as breach of contract, battery, or violation of California's products liability laws). It is important to note that punitive damages (also known as exemplary damages) in a personal injury case are not limited in amount. An award of punitive damages may not, however, be excessive or arbitrary. A punitive damages award punishes a defendant for his actions.

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