The Basics of Punitive Damages

Personal Injury Lawyer

When someone is injured in an accident, he or she can typically seek compensatory damages to cover medical bills, property damage repairs, pain and suffering, and other losses. Sometimes a judge will award the plaintiff punitive damages as well. What are they and when are they awarded?

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are a punishment for the defendant after he or she acted in a grossly negligent way. Most states will award a plaintiff punitive damages if the defendant showed intentional misconduct, acted with recklessness, showed gross negligence, or acted in deceit or malice. While the plaintiff may have already been awarded compensatory damages, he or she would be given an additional amount as a punishment and a statement to the defendant.

When Are They Awarded?

There are specific situations in which punitive damages are awarded. For example, if two people are in a car accident because someone failed to see a red light, causing a head-on collision, the at-fault party would more than likely owe compensatory damages. If the plaintiff’s lawyer is able to prove the at-fault party knew the light was red and took a chance anyway, punitive damages may be awarded.

Another example would include a faulty roof on a commercial building. If a portion of the roof fell and injured a customer, the owner of the building would typically owe compensatory damages. If an inspector had recently discovered damage and recommended a replacement, but the owner chose to ignore the recommendation, punitive damages may be awarded.

Are There Limitations?

There are some states that put a limit on how much a plaintiff can receive in punitive damages. For example, some states limit the amount at three times what the compensatory damages equaled. Other states have an actual amount, such as $500,000, and punitive damages cannot reach beyond that amount in any case.

How Strong Is My Case?

If you plan to sue for personal injury, and hope to receive punitive damages, you may wonder how strong your case is. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as every case is different, but your lawyer can give you some answers after he or she has a chance to look over all the evidence. The more evidence you have against the defendant, the stronger your case will be. If you only suspect gross negligence, and have nothing to back up your suspicion, you may not end up with any punitive award.

Contacting a Lawyer to Get Started

If you’ve been injured in an accident, one of the best things you can do is get a legal professional on your side. Contact an attorney like a personal injury lawyer, at the law offices of Davis & Brusca, LLC, for more information.