To win a personal injury lawsuit, you need to prove the defendant was negligent, irresponsible in their actions, or that they failed to act as a reasonable person would in particular circumstances. If the defendant wasn’t just negligent but was willfully responsible for your injuries, then punitive damages may be awarded.
When Punitive Damages May be Awarded
A willfully negligent individual or entity is one that intentionally causes harm. They may have intended to hurt you or realized they could cause you harm, and decided to act as they did anyways. In either circumstance, the court may decide the defendant needs to be punished for their actions.
Punitive damages may also be awarded when the defendant’s actions, even if not intentional, were still particularly grievous or exceptionally negligent. If the court believes social justice warrants the defendant to be punished, then punitive damages are often included. These types of damages may also be a warning to others that similar actions are not tolerated.
Compensatory damages, which are designed to pay for or cover your losses, are the most common in personal injury lawsuits. If punitive damages are awarded, they are paid in addition to compensatory damages, thus increasing the amount of financial compensation you receive.
Types of Punitive Damages
The legal statutes governing punitive damages vary from one state to the next. Some states set limits on the types of cases in which punitive damages are allowed. Others set dollar figure limits on the amount of punitive damages that can be assigned in any case.
Here are just a few instances in which punitive damages may be awarded:
- Drunk driving accidents
- Medical malpractice claims
- Product liability lawsuits
Although many states set punitive damage limits of, most permit a judge or jury to award punitive damages in at least some personal injury claims.
How an Attorney Can Help Determine Punitive Damages
An attorney familiar with personal injury lawsuits in your home jurisdiction can help you determine what types of damages are permitted in a case like yours. He or she can also help you understand the amount of punitive damages you may be able to receive.
A personal injury lawyer can file for the appropriate punitive damages given the specific circumstances of your case. Your legal counsel can also help you collect the necessary evidence to prove the defendant’s actions warrant further punishment.
They may call witnesses, take statements, subpoena records, or take other actions to discover evidence and documents for the court that the defendant’s actions were heinous, grievous, or willfully negligent.