What Are Compensatory Damages in Florida?

Compensatory damages are the basis of every personal injury accident. Compensatory damages provide a victim with monetary payment for their losses. When you’re hurt in an accident, you have the right to claim compensatory damages. In fact, compensatory damages are the basis of any injury claim. As an accident victim, it’s important to understand what compensatory damages are and how to claim them. Our Miami personal injury attorneys explain compensatory damages.

Calculating Injury Damages

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are damages that pay a victim for the losses that they have in an accident. Compensatory damages pay the victim for the things, both tangible and intangible that they lost in the accident. Losses include both economic and non-economic damages. If you’re the victim of a personal injury accident, you may deserve compensatory damages that are intended to pay you fairly for all of the ways that you suffered losses and pain because of an injury accident.

What Is the Definition of Compensatory Damages?

The definition of compensatory damages is economic and non-economic damages that are intended to pay a personal injury victim for their losses after an accident. Compensatory damages cover both financial losses, like medical bills, and intangible losses like pain and suffering.

While some types of damages can be measured with a calculator, compensatory damages include both the actual financial losses as well as the mental and emotional losses that accompany an accident.

What Are the Three Types of Damages?

The three types of damages are economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic damages and non-economic damages are compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are meant to give a victim justice because of their actual and personal losses because of the accident.

Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant who engages in extremely bad behavior. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a personal injury victim may claim all three types of damages.

Do Compensatory Damages Include Emotional Distress?

Yes, compensatory damages include emotional distress. Compensatory damages are not just direct financial losses. Even though emotional distress damages can’t be easily totaled up using a calculator, compensatory damages aim to place a dollar value on mental and emotional losses.

Emotional distress damages compensate a victim for those types of losses in the only way that the justice system can, by providing financial compensation. While valuing emotional distress damages may be an imperfect process, compensatory damages include emotional distress as a way to make a victim whole for the emotional suffering that they have because of a personal injury accident.

What Are the Different Types of Compensatory Damages?

The different types of compensatory damages include:

  • Medical bills of all kinds
  • Mental health treatment expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages and lost future earning ability
  • Property damage and loss
  • Loss of consortium including loss of sexual relationship and companionship
  • Inconvenience and loss of lifestyle

While financial losses form the basis of compensatory damages, compensatory damages are not economic damages alone. Both economic and non-economic damages are a part of compensatory damages. You deserve both when you suffer injuries in a negligence accident.

Are Compensatory Damages Taxable?

Some kinds of compensatory damages are taxable. Usually, economic compensatory damages, like medical bills and property damages, are not taxable. Non-economic compensatory damages like pain and suffering are often taxed.

Whether compensatory damages are taxable may depend on how you label or structure your injury settlement. If you’re working towards a settlement, it’s important to keep taxes in mind when you’re working on how to structure it. Compensatory damages may be taxable, depending on what the payment is for.

Can You Get Punitive Damages Without Compensatory Damages?

According to Florida law 768.73,  no, you cannot get punitive damages without compensatory damages.[1] To claim punitive damages, the defendant must damage the victim, personally, in some way. While punitive damages may punish a defendant for egregious conduct, a personal injury claim starts with an injury to a victim. Until there are compensatory damages, a plaintiff cannot claim compensatory damages. You can’t get punitive damages without compensatory damages.

How to Calculate Compensatory Damages

To calculate compensatory damages, you total all of the ways that you have financial losses because of the accident. You include financial losses that are both present and financial losses that are projected out into the future. Once you calculate your economic damages, you evaluate the severity of the accident and the relative amount of your pain and suffering. That gives you an approximate amount of your non-economic damages. Your economic and non-economic damages total the approximate value of your compensatory damages.

Compensatory Damages Example

A compensatory damages example is the following:

Kelly is the victim of a slip and fall. Medical bills total $20,000, and there are no future projected damages. In addition, Kelly needs $3,000 in mental health treatment to address anxiety resulting from the slip and fall. In addition, Kelly missed work and lost $10,000 of income. The accident is of moderate severity, so a non-economic damages multiplier of 2 applies to the case. Kelly’s economic damages total $33,000. Non-economic damages are another $66,000.

In this example, the total estimate for compensatory damages is $99,000. Each personal injury accident is unique. One example of a compensatory damages accident may be like or unlike your particular case.

Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages

Compensatory damages vs. punitive damages is a difference in the purpose of the compensation. Compensatory damages pay a victim for their actual losses, both financial and emotional. Punitive damages, on the other hand, punish a defendant for their conduct.

While compensatory damages look at the losses to the victim, punitive damages examine the behavior of the defendant. Compensatory damages are available in all qualified injury cases, but punitive damages are only available when specific conditions are present in the case.

Call Our Florida Attorneys for Compensatory Damages

Do you have questions about compensatory damages? Do you believe that you may deserve compensatory damages because of your injury accident? You don’t have to fight alone.

Contact our Florida injury attorneys for a comprehensive and thorough review of your claim. Let our full-service legal team explore what compensatory damages you may deserve as well as discuss ways that you can maximize your compensation. Call us today.


[1] FLA. STAT. § 768.73 (2019)

About the Author

attorney Jack Bernstein standing in front of a blurred background

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

Jack Bernstein is a hard working and highly motivated personal injury attorney in Miami, Florida with over three decades of experience. He is a strategist and idea person, with a genuine passion for helping his firm’s clients. If you've been injured, contact Jack Bernstein today for a free evaluation of your case.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.