Punitive Damages




This page will help you understand the concept of Punitive Damages by using lay-person terminology. By now you have read our page on personal injury claim values. As you already know, when an injured person makes their personal injury claim, he or she is allowed to be compensated for damages including (but not necessarily limited to) medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering and emotional distress.

The personal injury settlement is primarily based on the actual injury and treatment, as well as what it will take to put the person back as he was before the accident occurred. Punitive damages are monies paid over and above all of that. Unlike the other compensation discussed before, punitives are intended to punish the person who was at fault for the accident and deter him or her from repeating the same bad behavior in the future. Even though the injured person will receive the money as part of his settlement, the payment has less to do with the injured party than it does with the at-fault driver. Punitive equals punishment.

Punitive damages are not an element of every personal injury claim. Most automobile accidents are a result of negligence or simple carelessness; someone made a mistake. For "punitives" to be awarded, the injured party must be able to present some evidence that the at-fault driver’s actions were particularly reckless or indicated a complete disregard for the safety and rights of others. For example, the act of drunk driving could indicate a complete disregard for personal and public safety, and a drunk driver with a high blood alcohol level could be considered particularly reckless. Many states may have rules and limitations on when this type of damages is allowed, or may cap the amount of money that may be awarded.

Here is how this knowledge can help you settle your personal injury claim for its fair value: if you have been injured in an accident caused by a driver who acted with particular recklessness, especially a drunk driver, your personal or bodily injury claim will be worth more money. How much more money it is worth depends upon just how reckless the at-fault driver's actions were. Such claims are considered “aggravated liability” cases and trigger the possibility of punitive exposure. Insurance companies and other defendants do not like for this type of case to go before juries and will offer more money in an attempt to settle and prevent them from going to court.

If the case does appear to be headed for a trial, the insurance company may attempt to keep the aggravating issue out of court so that it does not inflame the jury into awarding more money to the injured person as punitive damages. Regardless of the punitive damage rules of the state where the accident happened, juries do not like drunken defendants or defendants who might be seen as extremely reckless or acting with blatant disregard for others. If a defendant’s actions make a jury angry, the jurors will award the injured person more money whether they call it punitive or not.

This article is written for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.



Other articles related to this topic:

Personal Injury Claim Values

Colossus Personal Injury Claim Evaluations

Is It Necessary to Retain an Attorney?

Negligent Entrustment Explained

Personal Injury Claim Settlements

What Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverages Pay For

The Black Box in Your Vehicle

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