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What are “Compensatory Damages”?

By Greg Kohn

If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s important to understand what type of compensation you may be eligible for. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for your losses, and can include things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To learn more about compensatory damages and how they may apply to your situation, contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney today.

Who Can Sue for Compensatory Damages?

In order to sue for compensatory damages, you must be able to establish that you have suffered a personal injury. This can be done in a number of ways, but typically requires the victim to provide evidence of their losses. In some cases, this may include medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Before we can get to proving losses, a personal injury plaintiff must first prove the elements of negligence.

In order to prove a defendant is liable for negligence, you must first establish that the conduct of the defendant was negligent. To be considered “negligent” an act must violate a duty owed toward another person or entity who can then file suit against them for breaching that duty (i.e., damages). New Jersey courts define four specific elements of negligence: 

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation 
  • Damages

We’ll discuss what these elements entail in the next section.

What Do I Need to Do to Prove Negligence?

Duty is the first element to consider when proving a case of negligence. New Jersey courts recognize that everyone has a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. This means that people must take into account the foreseeable risks posed by their actions and avoid creating situations where someone else could be hurt. For example, a driver has a duty to operate their car in a safe manner and avoid hitting pedestrians.

The second element of negligence is breach. A breach occurs when the defendant fails to meet the standard of care required by law. In order to determine if there was a breach, New Jersey courts look at what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances.

The third element of negligence is causation, which requires that there was a reasonably foreseeable relationship between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, if you are driving on an icy road in New Jersey during wintertime and slide into another car because your vehicle began to hydroplane, then your actions could be considered a breach. However, if you were driving on a road that was not icy and the other car suddenly lost control due to their own negligence in failing to maintain proper tire pressure, causing them to hit yours—you have no liability for this accident because it is an unforeseeable consequence of your actions given the circumstances.

The fourth and final element of negligence is damages, which means that the plaintiff must have suffered some type of harm as a result of the defendant’s actions. This can be in the form of physical injuries, property damage, or economic losses. Compensatory damages are awarded to make the victim “whole” again and attempt to put them in the same position they were before the negligence occurred.

What Do I Need to Do to Prove I Deserve Compensation For Injury Or Loss?

When you are injured or suffer a loss, it is only natural to want to be compensated for your damages. However, proving that you deserve compensation can be tricky. Here are some tips on what you need to do to make a strong case:

  • Collect evidence of the injury or loss. This could include photographs, medical records or witness statements.
  • Establish the value of your damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for your losses, so you need to be able to quantify them.
  • Make sure you have a strong legal basis for your claim. Negligence is the most common legal basis for personal injury claims, but there may be others depending on your case.
  • Seek legal help. An experienced personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process and make sure you have the best chance of winning your case.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another person’s negligent actions, it is important to speak with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney. They can help guide you through the process of proving each element of negligence and securing the compensation you deserve. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We are happy to provide a free consultation.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.