If you have been injured in an accident, you need to understand the types of compensation to which you are entitled. In this regard, you may be wondering whether you may be able to make a claim for punitive damages in your case. There are a number of facts and factors to bear in mind when it comes to making a claim for punitive
Definition of Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are an additional type of compensation awarded in some personal injury cases. Punitive damages are awarded in cases in which the party who caused an accident was particularly reckless.
Punitive damages not only serve as a means of awarding additional compensation to the injured person, but they also serve as a means of punishing the person who caused an accident for particularly egregious conduct.
Punitive damages are awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. Whether punitive damages should be awarded in a particular case is a decision made by a jury in a trial.
Considerations in Making a Punitive Damages Claim
In order to prevail in a claim for punitive damages, you do need to demonstrate that the conduct of the party causing an accident was particularly reckless or egregious. No type of negligence that results in an injury can be dismissed. However, there are instances in which a third party’s conduct is particularly over the top, warranting additional compensation to an injured person.
Take the matter of a texting driver as an example. A texting driver is engaging in negligent conduct. However, add to the mix that the driver is texting and driving in an active school and a child gets hit by the attentive driver. Odds are that a skilled personal injury attorney will be able to make a strong case for the award of punitive damages in a lawsuit.
Caps on Noneconomic Damages
Unlike lost income, medical expenses, and the like, punitive damages are considered in the class of noneconomic damages. As a result, the laws in most states impost caps on what a jury can award in regard to punitive damages. Thus, although you may read about a jury awarding a huge amount of money in punitive damages, that amount will be reduced to the maximum permitted by law in a particular state.
Appeal of Punitive Damages
A person who receives a judgment for punitive damages, particularly if the amount reaches the maximum permitted by law, can face the prospect of a court judgment being appealed. Oftentimes, when an appeal is lodged, the parties to a personal injury case reach a settlement in order to avoid all of the time and expense involved in the appellate process.
The U.S. Supreme Court and Punitive Damages
In determining whether punitive damages are warranted, a consideration cannot just be made of the extent of injuries sustained by a person. Rather, the extent of injuries is one consideration that goes to determining whether or not the conduct of the party that caused an accident was particularly reckless or egregious.
Some courts in the country previously had awarded punitive damages based exclusively on a consideration of the extent of injuries sustained by the victim of negligent conduct. This is no longer permissible pursuant to the most recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court on the subject.
Petition in a Lawsuit and Punitive Damages
When filing a petition or complaint in a personal injury lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer needs to set out that punitive damages will be sought in a case and why. The necessity of doing this at the outset of a case underscores the need for a skilled, experienced personal injury in a lawsuit seeking financial recovery for injuries caused by someone else. The failure to include this in a petition or complaint possibly can preclude a person from ever being able to seek an otherwise justifiable claim for punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident, and have more questions about your claim and punitive damages, a personal injury attorney will schedule an initial consultation with you to discuss your case. Typically, there is no charge for an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.