What Are Punitve Damages and When are they Awarded?
As an attorney, we work with many clients who wish to sue someone who caused the client harm and, if successful, award punitive damages. Before reaching this step, other things must take place. First, it is important to hire an attorney who can file a lawsuit against the negligent party. The negligent party can be a person, company or even government entity that harms you by their purposeful or accidental actions. We can, regardless of how the accident and injuries took place.
We understand the process
Several incidents that a person will sue someone else after include:
- Car accident
- Being injured by a bad product
- Motorcycle accident
- Bicycle accident
- Bus accident
- Being injured on someone's property
In court, it will be necessary to prove that the other party was negligent and responsible for the incident. Once an attorney does so, he or she will begin presenting evidence for why a victim deserves compensation. When painting a picture for how badly the accident impacts a victim's life and how it may continue to do so in the future, a jury will get to understand why the accident was so terrible.
They will hear how the accident victim is no longer able to do the things they enjoy, is no longer able to go to work or has to make regular visits to the doctor. This allows a jury to carefully consider how much money to award the victim.
What are punitive damages?
When a jury feels that the negligent party acted particularly recklessly or purposefully they may want to award punitive damages as a way to punish them for this bad behavior. These damages are not tied to any direct expense that a victim has suffered or necessarily to their quality of life but are designed to allow the jury to force the negligent party to pay enough that they are unlikely to want to continue in their bad behavior.
They can be awarded against a person and are also very often awarded in cases of product liability when a manufacturer sells something they know can harm the consumer. In cases where an accident victim receives millions of dollars, it is typical because the jury has awarded punitive damages. A famous example is the tobacco cases where the cigarette companies paid out millions of dollars.
Still, you do see this in smaller accident cases as well. For example, a jury may award punitive damages if the driver in a car accident was drunk because they got behind the wheel after purposefully drinking and endangering everyone else. Ultimately, it is up to the jury whether they will award these damages or not.
Other types of financial damages
The most common type of financial damages received during a settlement or awarded by a jury is going to be economic damages. This is money to pay for direct and provable expenses associated with the accident. Things like medical bills and lost wages would fall into this category. Juries are also likely to award noneconomic damages which are more commonly referred to as money for pain and suffering. This is money to pay for the way the accident has negatively impacted a victim's life.
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Note: This is for information only and does not constitute legal advice.