If you were the victim of a car accident caused by a reckless driver, you may be eligible for punitive damages, in addition to other economic damages. Punitive damages go beyond covering the costs of your medical bills and other injuries.

An attorney can examine your case and determine whether you can pursue punitive damages. Call Ankin Law at 312-600-0000 to file your claim and to learn the difference between compensatory vs. punitive damages.

What Is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages in Illinois?

There are two main categories of damages that are recoverable after a personal injury claim.

Compensatory damages serve the purpose of having the victim receive compensation for his or her injuries. There are many types of compensatory damages, but they share the same goal: helping you recover the costs of economic, emotional, and physical damages.

On the other hand, punitive damages have a different goal: to punish the defendant. That’s why they don’t apply in all cases. Instead, punitive damages are usually paid by negligent or reckless defendants.

The purpose of punitive damages is to punish negligence and act as a deterrent to others not to commit similar crimes. A drunk driver might be forced to pay punitive damages as a deterrent to others not to drive drunk, for example.

You may wonder who receives the punitive damages if the purpose is merely to punish the defendant. The answer is that, as with compensatory damages, punitive damages are paid to the victim. However, the two types of damages still differ in their intended purpose and goal.

Types of Compensatory Damages

There are several types of personal injury damages that fall into the compensatory damages category.

You can receive damages for your medical bills, including ongoing treatment that you require as a result of the accident. However, you can also file for compensation for pain and suffering. That includes both physical and emotional pain.

For example, many people suffer from PTSD after an accident. PTSD can lead to flashbacks, emotional suffering, sleepless nights, stress, and headaches.

If you experience ongoing physical pain, such as nerve pain or back pain, resulting in a lower quality of life, you could file for compensation for that as well.

How Are Compensatory Damages Calculated?

So, how are personal injury damages calculated?

Calculating compensatory damages for a personal injury claim is straightforward when it comes to defined expenses, such as past medical bills or property damage. However, things get complicated when it comes to ongoing medical bills, since it’s not always obvious how much it will cost you in the long run. It could depend on how long you will need the treatment, for example.

Similarly, the loss of past income is easy to quantify. However, loss of future income is a bit more challenging to determine. That’s especially true if it’s not clear how long it will be before you can return to work or to what extent you can continue in your previous line of employment. Future inflation could also come into play. In addition, pain and suffering are difficult to quantify.

A personal injury lawyer in Illinois will have experience dealing with situations such as your own. An attorney will work with experts, if necessary, to determine the value of your claim, even for damages that may seem hard to quantify.

What Is the Criteria for Awarding Punitive Damages in Illinois?

Illinois has laws governing punitive damages. Not all accidents or injuries will involve punitive damages.

Typically, punitive damages are awarded if the defendant was shown to be reckless, intentional, or malicious.

For example, someone driving while drunk with a baby in the car may be hit with punitive damages. On the other hand, someone who was not drunk and caused an accident may be liable for compensatory damages, even if they were not 100% at fault. However, he or she might not be liable for punitive damages.

The amount you will be awarded in punitive damages, if any, will be decided by the court. The jury may hold the defendant liable for a higher amount of punitive damages, depending on how reckless or negligent he or she was. It may not always be correlated with the amount of compensatory damages you can claim.

Compensatory damages, on the other hand, depend on the value of your losses, not on the financial situation of the defendant. That’s because they are designed to help you recover your losses, not to punish the other party.

Are There Limitations on Punitive Damages in Illinois?

Illinois law lays out limitations on punitive damages.

Punitive damages can only be awarded if compensatory damages were awarded. If no actual damages were awarded, punitive damages won’t be awarded either. This applies only to civil cases, though. For criminal cases that include jail time, this limitation doesn’t apply.

Furthermore, punitive damages can’t exceed three times the amount of the compensatory damages awarded in the case. A personal injury attorney in Chicago can seek to maximize your compensatory damages, which will, as a result, extend the upper limit of the potential punitive damages that can be awarded in that case.

In addition, punitive damages can only be awarded if the defendant was recklessly and outrageously indifferent to a highly unreasonable risk of harm. In addition, the defendant must have had a conscious indifference to the safety of others.

Punitive damages may be tried separately from compensatory damages if the defendant requests it. In that case, compensatory damages will be tried and determined first. If compensatory damages are awarded, punitive damages will be tried next. Different evidence may be required for both trial proceedings.

It’s important to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible if you suffered an injury.

Personal injury law is a broad field. Personal injury lawyers help victims claim compensation for many types of injuries, including injuries suffered in the workplace, during car accidents, and in other places.

A personal injury attorney in Illinois can help prove liability by demonstrating that the owner of the property, the other driver, or another party was negligent or responsible for your injury and thus liable to pay you compensation.

Personal injury attorneys typically operate on a contingency basis. That means you won’t be charged anything upfront. Furthermore, if you don’t win your case, you won’t have to pay anything. Since your lawyer won’t get paid unless you get paid, he or she is incentivized to do everything possible to maximize your compensation.

Contact Ankin Law for an initial consultation. You will be able to ask questions about the case and learn your chances of success. You will also get a chance to learn what the process for filing compensation is, how long it might take, and what to expect. The sooner you get the process started, the sooner you can get your compensation.