Q
What are compensatory and punitive damages?

A
As the term implies, compensatory damages include actual losses for which you are entitled to receive compensation.  These losses can readily be proven and include two types: unliquidated damages and liquidated damages.  Unliquidated damages in Virginia neglicence cases involve pain and mental anguish, the injury and its affect on your health, invonvenience, and scarring while liquidated damages include: medical bills, lost wages, and property damage for which there is a measurable dollar amount.

Punitive damages, also know as exemplary damages, are damages inteded to send a message or reform future behavior.  Punitive damages are based on the idea that the defendant will be less likey to repeat a behavior if they are required to pay for it.  They are also intended to send a message to the community as a whole that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.  Although compensation for punitive damages does go directly to the plaintiff, the purpose of these types of damages rests on the shoulders of the defendant.  Because punitive damages usually compensate the plaintiff in excess of their provable losses, they are typically associated with cases in which the defendant displayed reckless behavior with disregard to human life or safety.  One of the most common examples in Virginia is a person causing an automobile accident while driving under the influence of alcohol.

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