Most personal injury cases will seek compensatory damages. These are monetary awards intended to compensate victims for their economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages, on the other hand, may be obtained in some personal injury lawsuits. Punitive damages are granted to victims to punish the perpetrators and dissuade them from participating in similar activities in the future.
Punitive damages are often imposed only when a defendant’s actions amounted to gross negligence, resulting in catastrophic injury to the victim.
If you have been injured as a result of the actions of another person, you may be entitled to financial compensation from them. If their actions were excessive and intentional, punitive damages might be possible. A personal injury lawyer from reputed law firms, such as Finkelstein & Partners LLP, may assist you in obtaining the compensation you are entitled to.
Why are punitive damages awarded?
Punitive damages are a special type of damage attainable only in a few limited conditions. Punitive damages serve two critical purposes:
- Punish inappropriate conduct. Punitive damages are intended to penalize the offender for extremely severe actions.
- Set an example. Punitive damages are frequently referred to as “exemplary” damages since they also deter the offender from behaving in the same manner in the future and prevent others from participating in similar behavior.
When should you go for punitive damages?
In general, punitive damages exceed proven harm. They are often only granted in situations filed under personal injury or medical misconduct rather than contractual disputes. Nonetheless, punitive damages are sometimes given in insurance bad faith suits that emerge under an insurance policy. This is because, in some cases, the insurer’s contract violation is so egregious that it becomes a tort under the implicit condition of good faith and fair dealing.
The amount of punitive damages is at the discretion of the jury. Most states encourage juries to weigh both objective and subjective criteria. These elements include the heinousness of the defendant’s actions, the amount of punitive penalties that will deter the defendant based on their wealth, and the type of the plaintiff’s harm. Defendants often request that the jury assess the fair link between the punitive damages and the plaintiff’s harm.
Some tort reform advocates argue that punitive damages should be restricted to cases exhibiting genuine malice. Most states, however, give punitive damages where a defendant’s conduct is deliberate, malicious, oppressive, deceptive, or reckless.
Punitive damages may be given in a product liability action, for example, if the defendant is a corporate drug manufacturer that knowingly provides pharmaceuticals with lasting negative side effects without warning. Punitive damages have also been granted in circumstances when a religious organization was aware of a cleric sexually assaulting minors and sent him to another parish without informing parishioners.
Punitive damages may also be warranted in a premises liability lawsuit when an apartment complex knows the gate to an otherwise unattended swimming pool is damaged but fails to repair it even though the complex is aware of several children living there. Punitive damages may also be warranted when a person with three previous DUI convictions drives intoxicated on a suspended license and kills someone.
Several states have implemented a split-recovery provision, which provides that a part of the punitive damages judgment be paid to the state rather than the plaintiff.
What’s the cap on punitive damages?
Punitive damages are calculated using rules established by the Supreme Court and the states. While there is no cap, punitive damages are usually limited to four times the amount of compensatory damages.
For example, if a plaintiff receives $100,000 in compensatory damages and is granted punitive damages, the punitive damages might total up to $400,000.
There are, however, exceptions. More punitive damages may be given if a defendant’s conduct is exceptionally heinous, the plaintiff’s injury is greater than the punitive penalties demanded, or sums awarded in comparable instances are larger.
You may be awarded more punitive damages if the non-economic loss is difficult to quantify, injuries are difficult to detect and may need ongoing care, or the defendant’s behavior is particularly offensive. Whatever the verdict, the defendant is always given reasonable notice of the amount of punitive damages and the act that justifies the award.