Comparing Punitive and Compensatory Damages After An Accident In Oklahoma

February 4, 2023
Comparing Punitive and Compensatory Damages After An Accident In Oklahoma

Imagine you’ve been in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence. And it results in serious injuries, medical bills, and lost wages, which over 2000 Oklahoma residents experience yearly. It seems like justice should be served – but how? 

Concept of punitive and compensatory damages comes into play. 

In Oklahoma, when a person has suffered losses due to another’s wrongdoing or negligence, they may be entitled to damages as part of their legal remedy. Punitive and compensatory damages are awards available for plaintiffs who have experienced harm from an accident or other incident in Oklahoma. 

While both aim to compensate victims, there are essential differences between them that it’s critical for anyone considering filing a lawsuit to understand. 

What are Compensatory Damages in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, compensatory damages focus on compensating an individual for losses due to another’s wrongful or negligent acts. This form of compensation intends to make the plaintiff whole again in terms of physical and emotional damages. 

Compensatory damages can include money for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. The amount of the award is determined by a jury or judge depending on the facts of the case and any applicable laws.

When a court awards compensatory damages to the plaintiff, they can be in two categories:

1. Special Damages

Special damages are also known as economic damages. These focus on the actual losses the victim incurs due to the accident.

These awards are easy to calculate as they come from the actual costs incurred by the victim due to an injury caused by a mishap, yet not limited to car collisions.

Besides medical bills, victims can get repayment for lost wages, property damages, or any litigation-related expenses because of negligence. Moreover, the sum granted to a plaintiff is certain since these losses can be corroborated and fortified with physical proof.

Other costs that qualify as special damages include: 

  • Lost wages
  • Damage to personal property
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Cost of rehabilitative therapy including occupational and physical therapy 
  • Replacement services such as child care services and grocery shopping services 
  • Home nursing care
  • Other relevant out of pocket costs

2. General Damages

When assessing the damages in personal injury cases, arriving at an accurate figure can be difficult. In addition to substantial losses such as medical bills and lost wages that are easy to quantify, there is also emotional anguish, PTSD, scarring, or disfigurement from the incident– all of which cannot be precisely calculated but should still form part of any compensation claim. 

Furthermore, long-term effects may only become apparent much later on. For instance, brain injuries due to concussions often take time before they make their presence known.

Moreover, even an injury such as defamation can be regarded as general damages, but so too can the inability to form relationships following a traumatic event. This is known as “loss of consortium.” Effectively, when someone’s quality of life has been diminished due to their harm, they may qualify for additional compensation in terms of general damages.

Other examples of general damages include:

  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reputation loss
  • Disfigurement
  • Scarring
  • Loss of a limb
  • Diminished quality of life

Examples of Accidents that Can Result in Compensatory Damages

It’s possible to receive compensatory damages in almost any case that involves personal injury caused by another party’s negligence. However, these damages are more common for the following types of accidents:

  • Slip and falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Bicycle collisions
  • Truck crashes
  • Medical malpractice 
  • Motorcycle crashes
  • Defective product accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Premises liability accidents

What are Punitive Damages?

The purpose of punitive damages in Oklahoma is to punish wrongdoers for their actions and deter them from engaging in similar conduct. Unlike compensatory damages, which make up for the losses suffered by a plaintiff, punitive damages do not consider the specific harm incurred.

Instead, a jury or judge awards them as punishment and deterrence after determining that the defendant acted with malice or recklessness.

The amount of a punitive damage award is determined by Oklahoma law and can be much higher than the amount of compensatory damages awarded in a case. 

Differences between Punitive and Compensatory Damages

The primary difference between punitive and compensatory damages is the purpose for which they are awarded. Compensatory damages make up for losses due to another person’s negligence. In contrast, punitive damages punish those responsible and deter them from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

It’s also important to note that punitive damages can be awarded by a jury or judge even if compensatory damages have yet to be requested or awarded. Compensatory damages, however, must be requested and may not always be granted.

Considerations for Filing a Lawsuit Involving Punitive or Compensatory Damages

Punitive Damages Law

If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence in Oklahoma, it’s important to understand how punitive and compensatory damages can affect your case. 

When filing a lawsuit, it’s best to consult with an experienced Oklahoma attorney who can explain the differences between these two types of damages and help you determine which type(s) may be available in your specific case. 

In addition, it’s important to note that punitive damages are not always awarded, and when they are awarded, the amount can be much higher than compensatory damages. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of these potential ramifications before filing a lawsuit involving punitive or compensatory damages in Oklahoma.

By understanding the differences between punitive and compensatory damages in Oklahoma, you can make informed decisions about your case and seek maximum compensation for your losses. 

Furthermore, it helps you determine whether it’s worth pursuing a lawsuit in your case or not. It’s vital to get professional legal guidance if you have any questions about punitive and compensatory damages in Oklahoma.

Statute of Limitations

As mentioned, the effects of an accident can begin emerging long after the incident. If that’s the case, you can still receive just compensation as the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Oklahoma is 2 years.

The law has this provision as every victim of an accident caused by another party’s negligence or malice deserves a life of maximum value. With this timeframe you can recover damages for injuries, medical bills, and other effects of an accident. 

Considering that the legal process is complex and often overwhelming, make sure you hire a reliable attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 for a free consultation.

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