If you have been injured as a result of another person’s negligence, it’s natural to want to see that person punished. However, the primary purpose of personal injury damages is to compensate you for your injury, not necessarily to punish those responsible.
That said, punitive damages are occasionally assessed in order to directly penalize those responsible for an accident or injury. That said, they don’t apply in most cases, so they’re fairly rare.
Understanding Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are intended as a penalty for any especially negligent or intentional actions one might have taken to cause injury to another, and they’re awarded in addition to compensatory damages, such as those assessed for medical bills or pain and suffering.
Since punitive damages are meant to punish deliberate or reckless behavior, they’re typically reserved for the most egregious cases. After all, most people don’t intend to directly harm one another, so most personal injury cases are the results of preventable accidents rather than willful intent. Because of that, the odds are that your personal injury case won’t qualify for punitive damages.
That said, it’s worth talking to an attorney about your case.
Punitive Damages Vs. Compensatory Damages
Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in that they are designed as a direct punishment. Compensatory damages, such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost income, are primarily intended to help injured persons get through what is typically a harsh, costly, and painful recovery period.
The amount of punitive damages awarded for an injury—whenever they’re awarded at all—is based on the total compensatory damages involved in the case, with a limit of up to four times the amount in most scenarios.
Primary Causes for Punitive Damages
While punitive damages are rare, they are awarded from time to time. The following circumstances may warrant punitive damages.
Any attempt to deliberately cause harm to another should be met with severe consequences. If the party who caused your injury did so intentionally, then the odds are much higher that punitive damages will be awarded.
Gross negligence or recklessness
In some punitive damages cases, an injury may have resulted from extreme negligence or particularly reckless actions rather than a deliberate intent to cause harm. For instance, if a driver was being particularly reckless on the road and caused an injury, they’d most likely face punitive damages on top of compensatory damages.
A crime was committed
Often, punitive damages coincide with cases where a crime was committed. For instance, a particularly reckless driver would most likely violate traffic laws, and if they cause an accident, they’d be more likely to be assessed punitive damages.
Securing Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case
If you suspect your case qualifies or punitive damages, you’ll need to make sure you have a solid personal injury attorney on your side. These cases tend to have more at stake, which means the evidence and rhetoric used in your case need to be that much stronger.
As such, when choosing an attorney for these types of cases, make sure you select someone who is both highly capable and highly committed to representing your best interests.