What Punitive Damages Could Mean for You
Compensatory damages are the most commonly sought-after outcome when you speak with an attorney about your personal injury case.
However, something of near-equal importance that can also be worth exploring is punitive damages. While not every personal injury case will be eligible for them, several can be. Read on to begin understanding punitive damages and how they could relate to your lawsuit.
Why Are Punitive Damages Introduced Into Personal Injury Claims?
When you visit a law firm, you can gain significant insight into the intricacies on how to settle a personal injury case. Your chosen personal injury attorney might talk about compensation, but they also might discuss your eligibility for punitive damages. There are two reasons why these damages can be integral in a personal injury case. Firstly, they can punish someone for particularly bad behaviour. A jury may also impose these damages to dissuade the defendant and others from behaving in the same way in the future.
Punitive Damage Restrictions
The law restricts punitive damages to certain types of cases. If your lawyer can prove that the defendant acted intentionally, fraudulently, wantonly, or willfully, you may have a case for damages. However, there can also be other requirements. You must be able to prove direct harm and malicious intent. The punitive damages also have to be awarded in conjunction with other damages, and those other damages must be awarded first. When you are learning how to settle a personal injury case, you’ll gain insight into what other compensation types can be.
How the Jury Calculates Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are often carefully calculated by a judge or jury. Typically, juries determine how much to award a plaintiff based on information from the Book of Approved Jury Instructions (BAJI). They look at the severity of the behaviour, the level of harm, and even the defendant’s wealth level. The amount awarded is often proportionate to their wealth level. For example, a wealthy defendant usually has to pay more than a less wealthy defendant.
Also taken into account are the plaintiff’s vulnerability, the type of harm they conducted, how long for, and how often it happened. However, a jury doesn’t have complete control over how much a defendant has to pay. A judge can also impose limits on the damages awarded.
Cases That Call for Punitive Damages
Given the broad range of requirements that make a plaintiff eligible for punitive damages, there is an equally wide range of personal injury case types. As long as the case meets the criteria, it may be one that sees punitive damages awarded. Once negligence has been proven, medical malpractice claims can be one such case type. A disregard for the law, such as speeding and dangerous conduct with the potential to cause harm, may also prove eligibility.
Even if you had every intention of representing yourself in court, the potential for punitive damages might be enough to make you change your mind. If you believe your case could be eligible, it may be worth consulting a personal injury attorney to find out more.