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Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages
Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages
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Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages

Posted in Personal Injury on May 8, 2015

Compensatory vs punitive damages

“Pain and suffering,” “emotional distress” and “bodily injury” are just some of the familiar references you might hear in a legal discussion surrounding a personal injury lawsuit. These damages fall within one of the two classifications of recovery Colorado recognizes, which are “compensatory” and “punitive.” It’s important to understand the differences between these damages to determine whether you are entitled to one or both after suffering a personal injury.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are designed to help a victim recover his or her losses resulting from a personal injury incident. This restitution is divided into two sub-categories: economic and hedonic (non-economic).

Economic Damages

Economic damages seek to replace the victim’s financial losses that directly result from the injury. Recovery of these damages might include:

  • Payment for medical treatment the victim underwent as a result of the personal injury;
  • Replacement of lost income due to the injured party’s inability to work;
  • Property replacement, including clothing or personal items the victim had on his or her person during the incident.

These damages are generally easy to account for, as the victim will have receipts for his or her medical bills, a reasonable accounting of lost income, an accounting of the property damaged and, of course, his or her attorney’s bills.

Hedonic (Non-economic) Compensatory Damages

The harder part is establishing and calculating hedonic damages, and this is due to the nature of this type of damage. Because this damage is considered non-economic, there aren’t any tangible records to calculate the victim’s suffering. Regardless, Colorado allows victims to claim hedonic damages, and these are classified as:

  • Restitution for pain and suffering the victim endured, including any anticipated future injury;
  • Recompense for emotional distress and psychological trauma resulting from the victim’s personal injury;
  • Recompense for “loss of enjoyment,” wherein the personal injury prevents the victim from enjoying his or her normal activities;
  • Compensation for emotional and physical implications of a victim left with a physical impairment or disfigurement.

Once it has been determined that the plaintiff sustained a personal injury as a result of the defendant’s actions, the court will calculate and award compensatory damages and possibly attorney’s fees. Whether the court awards both economic and non-economic recompense depends on the documentable and non-documentable damages, and victims should know that Colorado caps the amount of hedonic compensatory damages awarded to a plaintiff.

Punitive Damages

To add insult to personal injury, some people become the victims of an incident due to the intentional act of another. This makes dealing with a personal injury far more difficult, and if the damaging party was maliciously careless, reckless, or sought to harm the victim, the personally injured may also be entitled to punitive damages.

Colorado assesses punitive restitution sparingly, as is it meant to punish the damaging party. In the case of claiming punitive damages, the perpetrator of the injury must have demonstrated the intent of malice, a willful disregard for the health, safety and/or rights of the injured party.

Our Denver Injury Attorneys Can Help

In Colorado, victims of personal injury have the right to be made whole again; state statute allows for this. Whether the entitled damages are only compensatory or both compensatory and punitive, victims should never be afraid to pursue recompense for their losses sustained in a personal injury matter. Call us today for a free consultation. Learn more at: www.zanerhardenlaw.com.


Your choice today could be your first step towards justice, closure, and peace. If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, call the Colorado Priest & Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Zaner Harden Law for a free and confidential consultation at (720) 613-9706, or complete our online case evaluation form and we’ll reach out to you.