Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Legal Personal Injury

There are a lot of factors that are involved when dealing with personal injuries, and personal injury lawyers are able to offer expert opinions about how these cases should be handled. One of the most common areas of concern during a personal injury case is the subject of punitive damages. What exactly are punitive damages, who qualifies for them, and how are they awarded? A professional personal injury lawyer can answer all these questions and more.

What Are Punitive Damages?

In general, damages of any sort are monetary in nature, and they are awarded to the plaintiff as compensation for some cost they accrued during the court process or the crime itself. The most common type of damages are compensatory damages, which are designed to help a plaintiff repay court fees, medical bills, and any other fees that may come up. Punitive damages, on the other hand, exist as a punishment for the defendant. The goal of punitive damages is not only to punish for the crime, but to encourage the assailant not to repeat the crime. In cases where punitive damages are considered, the court has many different things to weigh before they can determine if punitive damages are actually necessary.

Who Qualifies For Punitive Damages?

A court will have to scrutinize any submission for punitive damage claims against a predetermined set of regulations. Punitive damages are only awarded in situations where some other form of damages have already been issued, like compensatory or non-pecuniary damages. Punitive damages can not be the only damages awarded to a plaintiff. Secondly, the defendant must have purposefully committed the act against the plaintiff with malice. Punitive damages are not awarded in cases when an accident results in serious injury. The action of the defendant must cause direct harm to the plaintiff as well, and the damages claim must be relatively proportionate to the original damages. There is no legal limit to the value of a punitive damages claim, so a personal injury lawyer can help determine the proper claim amount.

How Are Punitive Damages Calculated?

Personal injury lawyers understand the subtle nuances that go along with punitive damages, so they can provide hands-on assistance with the complexities of your case. A court will receive a claim for punitive damages from the personal injury lawyer for the plaintiff, and the court must decide if the requested amount is appropriate. Most punitive damages are capped at roughly four times the value of the original damages. Therefore, if a plaintiff is awarded $1 million in compensatory damages, it may be possible for them to receive an additional $4 million. There are rare cases when larger proportions have been awarded, but those are usually reserved for the most despicable and purposeful criminal acts.

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