Personal Injury Blog

A Look at Compensatory & Punitive Damages

When someone has been injured in Ontario because of the negligence of another, a tort lawsuit can ensue. This allows the injured, or the family of the injured, to seek justice and compensation from the negligent party. So how much will you get? This is a difficult question to answer, and many factors are involved in determining what your case may be worth.


Types of Personal Injury Damages: Knowing the Difference in Ontario Personal Injury Law

Damages is a term used in personal injury law that refers to the money an injured person receives as a result of harm caused by another person or entity. There are different categories and subcategories of damages a personal injury lawyer can explore to get their client the settlement they deserve.

There are two main categories that all damages will fall under. They will either be considered compensatory damages, or punitive damages.


Compensatory Damages

There are two types of compensatory damages – general and actual. Actual is exactly what you think it is; it provides compensation to replace what is actually lost. These damages are designed to compensate the injured for proven economic losses they’ve experienced such as loss of income, loss of opportunity, incurred medical expenses, as well as future expenses they will have due to the negligence of another. This, in essence, is a tally of specific measurable losses; the best approximation of actual money lost that the injured has experienced or will likely experience in the future because of an accident and injuries someone else has caused.

Example – Loss of Income

Sally is a waitress. She is on her way to her 10-hour shift when she is struck by another vehicle who ran a red light. Sally misses 1 year of work as she recovers…that’s five 10-hour shifts per week for 50 weeks of the year totalling 2,600 hours of work. Determining how much income loss Sally will experience is specific and measurable.

General damages (also referred to as pain and suffering) are a lot more complicated and are awarded for non-monetary losses that are not easily measurable and are subjective. This could include mental anguish, physical disfigurement, loss of amenities, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionship, amongst others. General damage amounts are usually determined based on the amounts awarded in previous cases with similar facts. The amount awarded is when injuries and losses are more severe.

As of January 2024, general damages are capped at $450,997, however, there is no cap applied to past and future loss of income or earning potential, future cost of care, or loss of housekeeping and home maintenance capacity, which can yield millions of dollars depending on the circumstances of the case.

 *Actual Damages are also referred to as: Special Damages, Economic Damages, and Pecuniary Damages                                   

*General Damages are also referred to as: Non-Pecuniary Damages, and Pain and Suffering


Punitive Damages (also referred to as exemplary damages)

Punitive damages are different and serve an entirely different purpose than compensatory damages. While compensatory damages are meant to reimburse the injured party for their losses, punitive damages are meant to punish the guilty party for bad or harmful behaviour, as well as serve as a deterrent to others from committing the same or similar actions.

There is no scientific method to determine or predict punitive damages, and the courts will consider many factors in determining this figure including, but not limited to:

      •            -How large (profitable) the defendant is
  •            -Was there any advantage (or profit) gained by the Defendant
  •            -The relative vulnerability of the Plaintiff
  •            -Has the defendant done this in the past

Punitive damages in Ontario are not very common and are awarded at the court's discretion when the defendant's behaviour is found to be especially harmful. They are usually imposed to make an example of the negligent party to deter others from behaving in the same or similar wrongful conduct.

There are many different categories and subcategories of damages which can be confusing and overwhelming for someone considering a personal injury lawsuit. If you, or someone you love has been severely injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to speak to a personal injury law firm, like Campisi, to help you navigate the complex legal system, and help you get the compensation you deserve.


Campisi Law
About Campisi Law
Campisi's personal injury lawyers specialize in injuries resulting from serious vehicle accidents and catastrophic brain and spinal cord injuries. We know that when you’re a victim of an accident, everything can seem upside down. You need someone who cares enough to help you through the process, but also someone who’s strong enough to battle tirelessly on your behalf. You need an advocate with a heart. We help people across Ontario receive the compensation they deserve, and you don't need to pay anything unless we win. Contact us now for a no-obligation consultation.

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