You have probably heard that some injury victims get punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendants if they win their personal injury cases. What you may not know is that punitive damages are rarely awarded; only a tiny fraction of plaintiffs get the damages. If you are pursuing or intend to pursue a personal injury case, here are four factors that you must satisfy before getting punitive damages:
Your State Allows It
Your state may have a say on whether you receive punitive damages. Some states don't allow punitive damages; others only allow punitive damages in specific cases. Therefore, the first thing is to evaluate your case in line with your state's laws before including punitive damages in your demand estimation.
There Is a Reasonable Basis for the Award
Even if your state's laws permit punitive damages, you can only get it if you can prove that the defendant's actions were deceitful, intentional or grossly negligent. An ordinary case of negligence, for example, when another motorist hits your car because they have been distracted by their pet, isn't likely to attract punitive damages. However, a motorist who intentionally rams into your car in a case of road rage may be ordered to pay punitive damages during the trial.
You Have Been Awarded Other Types of Damages
Punitive damages are seldom awarded alone; you can't sue someone for injury and demand a settlement "as a form of punishment." You must have suffered, and received compensation, for other losses. For example, if a person knocks you over in the street, but you don't suffer any injuries, it would be difficult to get punitive damages for the case. However, you may get punitive damages if a person knocks you over and you suffer a broken arm. In that case, you will receive punitive damages on top of other damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.
The Judge Agrees With Your Plea for the Damages
Punitive damages aren't mandatory. In many cases, it is left to the discretion of the court (meaning judge or jury) to decide whether to award a punitive damage. In such a case, you must prove to the court that the defendant needs to be punished. Even if the jury agrees to your demands, the judge can still overturn or reduce the award.
Do you have a defendant whom you think should be punished? Air your concerns to a lawyer from a firm like Owen Law Firm, and they will tell you whether or not it's a possibility in your case.