What Are Punitive Damages?

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What Are Punitive Damages?

In a personal injury lawsuit, a monetary damages award is often the typical legal remedy awarded to the plaintiff. This usually consists of a compensatory damages award that is intended to reimburse the victim for costs associated with the injury. This may include medical costs, property damage, and other expenses.

In some cases, a punitive damages award may be issued. This is a damages award that is issued in addition to the compensatory damages award. These are intended to punish the defendant for conduct that is intentional or excessively reckless. An example of this is where a person is speeding very fast in an area where there are many pedestrians. They are also meant to deter persons from that type of conduct in the future.

Are Punitive Damages Always Available?

Punitive damages are not always available. As mentioned, they are usually only issued if there is going to be a compensatory damages award issued first. The reason for this is that the punitive damages award is often calculate based on the compensatory damages award. For instance, the punitive damages may be calculated based on a third of the compensatory damages, or whatever is appropriate for each individual situation.

Thus, if no compensatory damages are issued, there usually won’t be any punitive damages issued either. An example of this is where the court orders an injunction as a remedy rather than monetary damages (an injunction is a court order instructing the defendant to take certain actions).

Also, punitive damages are usually only reserved for cases involving extreme recklessness or for cases involving intentional acts.

What Are Punitive Damage Limits?

Punitive damage limits may sometimes be imposed in order to prevent plaintiffs from claiming an unreasonable amount in punitive damages. This may depend on the state laws. For instance, punitive damages limits may be very different in Arizona as compared to another state such as Hawaii.

Limits on punitive damages may either be a fixed amount (such as $750,000 maximum or some other figure), or fixed according to the amount of compensatory damages (such as twice the amount of compensatory damages).

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Punitive Damages Awards?

Punitive damages awards and other damages can get quite complex in a personal injury lawsuit. It’s in your best interests to hire a qualified lawyer for help with a punitive damages award. Your attorney can help determine if you need to file for damages, and can help when it comes to calculating the appropriate amount. Also, your lawyer can provide you with counsel and representation during the court hearings and meetings.

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Last Modified: 07-07-2015 04:15 PM PDT

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