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Understanding Punitive Damages

Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured through the negligence of another, you can ask for personal injury damages to pay for your medical bills and lost property. You may even ask for damages for your lost quality of life. While money can’t make up for a lost limb or a scar, it can make your life easier after the accident.

Punitive damages are different from your economic loss. Punitive damages are a punishment by the court, generally a monetary amount, that tries to deter the accident from occurring again. Although many plaintiffs attempt to get punitive damages, it’s not always easy to get them. Typically, the defendant’s conduct must be seriously reckless or malicious to receive punitive damages. The defendant’s actions must be oppressive, fraudulent, reckless or willful for the court to award punitive damages.

Factors That Determine Punitive Damages

State laws often dictate which kind of cases can have punitive damages awarded. If you’re interested in seeking punitive damages, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer put together the case to present to the court. You will have to outline your story to provide the court a reason to award punitive damages. Here are some of the factors that you will have to demonstrate:

  • The type of injuries you have, punitive damages are usually only awarded to serious injuries.
  • The defendant’s conduct, the more unreasonable, the better.
  • Your change in life after the accident.
  • Your compensatory damages. Typically, if you don’t receive compensatory damages, there can’t be a punitive damage claim.
  • The defendant’s resources.
  • The strength of the defendant compared to you.

Most of the time, the defendant will appeal a case where punitive damages are awarded. Plaintiffs can expect to have the award reduced, reversed or drug out for years before seeing any money. Punitive damages are not easy to collect.

How Are Punitive Damages Calculated?

Punitive damages are generally a multiple of 1 to 5 of your medical costs, lost income and damaged property. It depends on the laws in your state, because some states put a cap on punitive damages. It depends on the factors of your case, the long-term damage, the conduct of the negligent party and victim’s fault. There may be other cases in your state that could set precedent. In some cases, punitive damages are limited by the defendant’s worth.

Not all lawsuits result in punitive damages, but these damages could be a big source of recovery. Talk to a personal injury lawyer about your situation to get the best outcome.

Source: Personal Injury Lawyer Deer Park, TX, John K. Zaid & Associates

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