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If you or a family member suffered a serious injury in a car crash that occurred in or around Los Angeles and was caused by the reckless and wanton actions of another motorist, there may be grounds to file a civil action to recover compensatory damages in an effort to make you whole. Depending on the specific facts of your situation, there may also be grounds to pursue “punitive” damages from the reckless motorist. This leads to an important question – “what exactly is the difference between actual and punitive damages?”

Punitive damages (also known as“exemplary” damages) are a type of additional damages that can be tacked on to an award of actual damages to make a proverbial example of the defendant by holding them accountable and punishing them for especially egregious conduct. To be clear, punitive damages are not intended to help a plaintiff recover for their harms and losses. Instead, as mentioned, punitive damages are designed to punish the negligent behavior of the defendant.The objective of a large punitive damages award is to discourage others from engaging in similar behavior (e.g., an accident caused by a heavily intoxicated motorist).

In contrast, actual damages (also known as compensatory damages) are designed to reimburse victims for the harms and losses they endured in an accident that was caused by a negligent defendant.Actual damages are intended to reimburse a plaintiff for their medical bills, lost income, property damage, and so forth.

Factors in Deciding to Award Punitive Damages

There are a multitude of factors that come into play when deciding whether to award punitive damages. Some of the most common factors include:

  • The specific conduct of the defendant. For example, violent and/or purposeful acts typically result in large punitive damages awards.
  • The extent of the harm suffered by the plaintiff
  • The size of punitive damages awards granted in similar prior cases.

Ready to Take Action? Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer to Schedule a No-Cost Case Evaluation Today

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident due to the negligence of someone else, it is extremely important to have a well-respected and experienced Los Angeles injury attorney in your corner. At Los Angeles City Law, we are committed to skillfully employing our wealth of 20 + years of experience in pursuit of your claim’s optimal outcome. There is no financial risk to you. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact LA City Law at 866-999-6640 or visit to learn more.

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