What Are Punitive Damages and When Are They A Possibility?
Most people who seek a Los Angeles personal injury attorney to file a lawsuit are familiar with compensatory damages. Victims injured in an accident will seek compensation to reimburse them for medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. In some cases, punitive damages may apply. In most personal injury cases, punitive damages are not awarded but these “exemplary damages” may be applied if the defendant’s acts are considered to have been especially negligent, careless, or egregious.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for their wrongdoing. They are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and send a message that such behavior will not be tolerated by society. A request for punitive damages must be fulfilled by a judge to be applied The judge can choose to award these damages to deter the defendant from engaging in the same unacceptable behavior in the future or set an example to others.
In California, a judge can set the monetary amount for punitive damages as high as they want. There is no legal cap on exemplary damages in California. On the other hand, Ohio caps punitive damages at twice the amount of the compensatory damages awarded, up to $350,000. The rules on how damages are set vary from state to state.
According to California law, the amount requested is proportionate to the estimated damage caused by the defendant’s wrongdoing or negligence. It is set based on what’s most appropriate for the situation. To decide this, a judge hears both sides of the case, accounts for the severity of the victim’s injuries, and listens to the basis of a request for punitive damages.
When can Punitive Damages Be Awarded?
Personal injury lawsuits serve a primary purpose. That is to help make the injured victim “whole” again. If compensatory damages aren’t considered enough of a remedy, a judge may seek additional compensation through punitive damages. Such a decision may be made if your case involves:
- Gross negligence
- Reckless driving, such as a DUI
- Malicious/egregious acts
- Extreme carelessness
- Violent acts
- Intent to hurt/kill someone
- Environmental torts
- Class action lawsuits (with multiple plaintiffs)
Much of the time, punitive damages are applied to a case in which the defendant intended to cause harm to the plaintiff. But they’re not intended to benefit an accident victim or give them back something that was lost. However, punitive damages often involve multi-million-dollar awards, especially in states where judges and juries can award any amount appropriate to the case.
How Does One Get a Maximum Award?
It helps to have a car accident attorney working with you. For example, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney will gather all the facts of your case to determine whether another driver’s negligence caused the accident, a property owner’s failure to maintain the stairs or sidewalk caused you to fall, or an individual intentionally caused conditions or engaged in actions that harmed you. A driver’s failure to signal, excessive speed, or inattention may prompt your legal team, or a judge or jury, to cons
An accident attorney is on your side and fights for your rights. After an accident, the plaintiff, their legal team, and insurance company are not looking out for you. It can seem like a time of helplessness, but your lawyer has the expertise and negotiating skills to help get the compensation you deserve. For a free case consultation by the top personal injury attorney in California, contact The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani today at 888-952-2952.