Punitive damages are a form of non-compensatory damages awarded in some personal injury lawsuits. An award of punitive damages “punishes” the defendant for intentional wrongdoing or gross negligence. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter conduct that deliberately, willfully, and intentionally harms another party.
Only a few personal injury cases result in an award of punitive damages. The reason is that a punitive damages award requires that the plaintiff (injured party) prove that the defendant (the party who caused the injury) acted with such wanton, reckless conduct that they displayed a complete and total disregard for the consequences of their actions.
In other words, the defendant’s conduct demonstrated that they knew their actions could harm another person. However, the defendant willfully chose to continue with that conduct despite knowing it could cause injury or harm another person.
A common example of a personal injury case where punitive damages might be awarded is a drunk driving accident case. The driver knew that driving under the influence could result in a DUI accident. However, they chose to get behind the wheel, knowing they were placing everyone in their path at risk of severe bodily injury or death.
Other examples where punitive damages may be awarded include cases involving nursing home abuse, intentional violent acts, or knowingly distributing defective products. The key is whether the defendant’s conduct rose above ordinary negligence to justify the award of punitive damages.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages do not compensate the plaintiff for damages. Compensatory damages awarded to a plaintiff compensate the plaintiff for losses including:
On the other hand, punitive damages may be awarded to deter the defendant and other parties from committing similar conduct in the future. As stated above, punitive damages may be awarded to “punish” the defendant’s actions that rise above general negligence.
Some states limit the amount of punitive damages that a jury can award to a plaintiff. However, New York does not cap punitive damages.
Juries generally calculate the amount of punitive damages as a multiple of the compensatory damages. For example, a defendant may be ordered to pay punitive damages two or three times the amount of compensatory damages.
However, punitive damages should not be excessive. Therefore, a judge might deem punitive damages exceeding ten times compensatory damage excessive and reduce the jury’s award for punitive damages.
Defendants are also afforded due process. The United States Supreme Court has, in some cases, stepped in when a punitive damages award is unreasonably excessive.
Talk to a Bronx personal injury lawyer to discuss whether the facts and circumstances of your case would justify an award of punitive damages. A personal injury attorney examines the evidence of the case to determine what damages you are entitled to receive according to the law, including punitive damages.
You can help strengthen your personal injury case and improve your chances of receiving maximum compensation for damages by:
The steps you take after an injury or accident significantly impact the amount of money you can recover for damages. For example, talking to an insurance adjuster before seeking legal advice could hurt your case.
Claims adjusters work to protect the insurance company. Their job is to reduce the value of your injury claim as low as possible if they cannot find a reason to deny the claim. For example, the claims adjuster may claim that you were partially to blame for the cause of your injury based on a recorded statement you made after the accident.
According to New York’s contributory negligence law, your compensation for damages is reduced by your percentage of fault for your injury. Therefore, if a jury finds you are 20 percent at fault for causing a car accident, you receive 20 percent less money than your damages are worth.
A Bronx personal injury lawyer can help you avoid missteps that could hurt your chance of winning your case.
Call now to discuss your case with a Bronx personal injury attorney. Our attorneys at Oresky & Associates, PLLC offer free case evaluations for accident victims and their families.