When filing your personal injury claim, you may wonder what types of damages you are eligible to receive. Damages are the monetary award given to the plaintiff if their personal injury claim is successful. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are not as common, which is why they are so widely misunderstood.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions and deter others from committing similar acts. These are not the same as compensatory damages, which cover items such as medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. Compensatory damages are specifically designed to compensate the victim for their monetary losses and are easily calculated by a personal injury attorney.
When Do Punitive Damages Come Into Play
Punitive damages are not rewarded in all personal injury claims. Instead, a court must decide if punitive damages are warranted only after careful consideration of the case. Typically, punitive damages are awarded when:
- The defendant’s actions were deliberate;
- The defendant acted with malicious intentions;
- The conduct of the defendant was reprehensible; or
- The damage the plaintiff suffered is extreme and therefore warrants an extreme punishment.
The court will look for four key elements when determining if punitive damages can be awarded. These elements include:
- The plaintiff has been awarded compensatory damages – a case without compensatory damages will not qualify for punitive damages.
- The defendant acted maliciously, intentionally, or in a way that requires the court to deter others from acting the same way in the future.
- The punitive damages are proportionate to the compensatory damages – typically no more than three times the amount of compensatory damages. Excessive amounts are typically considered unconstitutional.
- The punitive damages are available for acts specifically done to the defendant and not to others.
How Much in Punitive Damages Could I Receive?
The amount you receive in punitive damages can vary, but you cannot pick a random amount. Instead, the courts have specific guidelines for how much to award in punitive damages. Your attorney can give an estimate, but ultimately the amount is up to the judge overseeing the case.
There are instances where higher punitive damages can be awarded, but these are reserved for special cases, such as injuries that are too difficult to detect – such as poisoning and illnesses associated with it.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney to Assess Your Claim
If you have been seriously injured and are exploring your options for a personal injury claim, contact the attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. today for a free consultation. We can assess your case and help determine what compensatory damages are applicable as well as if your case qualifies for punitive damages. Call us at 1-888-575-6410 or fill out an online contact form with your questions.