Punitive Damages and Personal Injury Lawsuits
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, there are two types of damages you may be able to recover: Compensatory and Punitive.
Compensatory damages are the most common type of damages and their purpose is to make the injured party “like whole again.” Compensatory damages can include: medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, and other economic or non-economic losses sustained because of the injury.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are less common. Their purpose is to punish the negligent party and deter them from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Since punitive damages are not intended to compensate for any loss, they are awarded sparingly—only when the circumstances call for it. Generally, a court will consider whether the wrongdoer acted with malice, fraud, or a willful disregard for human life. However, it can be relatively difficult to prove malice in negligence cases. Similarly, courts are more willing to award punitive damages if the tort was committed intentionally (like battery).
Additionally, punitive damages are not always awarded to the injured party, since they aren’t intended to compensate the victim for any actual harm. Some jurisdictions require punitive damages to be paid directly to the court or to a charitable victims’ fund—although this too isn’t all that common.
If you have been injured and are wondering whether you can recover punitive damages, Kershaw, Cook & Talley may be able to help. Call our office at (916) 520-6639 for a free case evaluation.