An Explanation of Punitive Damages

Suffering an injury can cause physical, emotional and financial challenges. If your injury comes at the hands of someone else, you may have legal rights to sue for damages. Your lawyer will help you determine whether the other party was negligent or injured you on purpose. If this is the case, you can get a settlement to pay for medical bills and lost income at work. There is another component to personal injury lawsuits: punitive damages. Your lawyer may advise you to seek these in your lawsuit as well.

What Are Punitive Damages?

When you sue for damages in a personal injury case, you’re looking for compensation to pay for medical bills and to cover income you have lost and will lose at work. Damages can also compensate you for loss of enjoyment and companionship, and for pain and suffering. Punitive damages seek to punish the offending party for wrongdoing. Though these damages are not tied directly to your injury, the defendant (if found guilty) must pay you for the punitive damages. If the court awards these damages, it is a way of holding the person accountable. The damages are also designed to deter the behavior that led to the accident from ever occurring again.

What Does the Court Look For?

In determining the validity of punitive damages claims, your lawyer must show that the defendant acted with gross negligence. This is a step beyond what you must prove for general damages. In seeking compensatory damages, your lawyer may prove that a driver ran a red light or was speeding. Your lawyer may also demonstrate that your employer didn’t train you sufficiently on machinery or equipment, leading to your injuries. With punitive damages, the negligence must be more severe. The guilty party must have demonstrated an absence of regard for your health and well-being. This may include an example where a driver was trying to collide with you. Or, a safety inspection revealed to your employer that it was not safely storing chemicals and that they should be moved farther away from workers. If your employer ignored these directives and you got sick or injured, the court could find your employer guilty of gross negligence.

Frequency and Amount

Compensatory damages are given far more than punitive damages. Though rare, the compensation can be significant. In some places, courts will award up to three times more for punitive damages than regular claims.

Before you file an injury lawsuit, understand these guidelines. This can help you make the right decision of whether to ask for punitive damages. To find out if you have a personal injury case, consult with a lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer in Trenton, NJ, as soon as possible to find out more.



Thank you to the experts at Davis & Brusca, LLC for their insight into personal injury and the law.