In certain personal injury lawsuits, the court may allow a plaintiff to collect two or three times the amount of actual damages. In order for a plaintiff to be eligible to collect these damages, there must be a statute that supports the award.
Double and Treble Damage Awards
- What Kind of Injuries Do Personal Injury Claims Involve?
- What Kinds of Actions Form the Basis of a Personal Injury Claim?
- How Do I Seek Double or Treble Damages?
- What Are the Requirements for Double and Treble Damages?
- Are There Any Limits on Double or Treble Damage Awards?
- What Is a Personal Injury Claim Based on Negligence?
- What Types of Damages Can a Judge Award an Injured Plaintiff?
- Should I Contact a Lawyer?
What Kind of Injuries Do Personal Injury Claims Involve?
A plaintiff who suffers a personal injury may be affected physically, emotionally, or both. A plaintiff may suffer from mental health injuries, including emotional pain and anguish, which were caused by the accident or injury.
- Physical injuries a plaintiff may suffer include injuries to organs, limbs, and other parts of the anatomy.
It is important to note that the plaintiff’s injuries may not manifest instantly. Instead, they may develop or appear over time.
What Kinds of Actions Form the Basis of a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injuries may occur intentionally, such as when defendants deliberately injure victims or when they intend to commit acts that result in injuries. Personal injuries may also occur unintentionally.
If an unintentional injury occurs as the result of an individual’s negligence, then a plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on that negligent behavior. Negligence cases include:
- Auto accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Injuries that are sustained from medical malpractice.
How Do I Seek Double or Treble Damages?
A plaintiff who is seeking double or treble damages is required to claim the award in their initial complaint with the court. A plaintiff is considered to have waived their right to these damages if they do not specifically request them in their complaint or in a motion early in the trial.
It is essential for the plaintiff to claim these damages early in the case because double and treble damages, in some cases, permit the plaintiff to bypass statutory limits on the amount which they can recover. For example, small claims courts may limit damage awards to $2,000.
If the jurisdiction permits double and treble damage awards, a plaintiff may be awarded double, or $4,000 or treble, $6,000.
What Are the Requirements for Double and Treble Damages?
There are some requirements for a plaintiff to receive double and treble damages, including statutes, requests, and wrongdoing.There must be a statute which supports the plaintiff’s request for double or treble damages. If the jurisdiction does not have such a statute, it is unlikely that the plaintiff will be able to obtain those damages.
A plaintiff is required to specifically claim their right to double and treble damages when they file a lawsuit. This is because these damages are not required and are only granted when specifically requested.
- The majority of jurisdictions require proof of a defendant’s intentional wrongdoing. This means that a defendant must have acted intentionally to harm the plaintiff. However, a defendant’s intent may be determined based on negligence, recklessness, or carelessness.
Because double and treble damages may require intentional wrongdoing by the defendant, they are often classified as punitive damages instead of general or compensatory damages. In other words, they are intended to punish the defendant rather than to compensate the plaintiff.
Are There Any Limits on Double or Treble Damage Awards?
Yes, there may be limits on double and treble damages awards. For example, some states place a limit on the amount of damages a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice claim. In some cases, state limits on medical malpractice awards may range from $250,000 to $500,000.
In these states, a damages award cannot exceed the limits provided, even when a court awards a double or treble damages award. States that enforce limits on medical malpractice claims include:
- Michigan; and
It is important to note that this list may not be comprehensive as these laws evolve. In addition, the statutes governing double and treble damages may also be subject to change.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim Based on Negligence?
Negligence personal injury claims are ones where a plaintiff may claim that the defendant injured the plaintiff as a result of breaching the duty of care which the defendant owed to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is able to show that this breach caused their injury, they have a claim for negligence.
The duty of care which a defendant owes to a plaintiff depends on the circumstances. The defendant has a legal duty to exercise the degree of care that an ordinary individual would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.
For example, if the defendant is operating their motor vehicle on a roadway in non-inclement weather, then the defendant has the duty to adhere to motor vehicle laws. If, however, the defendant is operating their motor vehicle on a one-lane road while the weather is stormy and inclement, the defendant will owe a greater duty of care.
In this situation, the defendant is required to exercise the degree of care which is appropriate for inclement weather. This includes:
- Using windshield wipers;
- Reducing speed;
- Using headlights and taillights.
Whether the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care depends on the foreseeability, or predictability, of the harm that may result if that duty is not exercised. In order to determine whether a defendant owed a duty of care, an individual can ask the following question: would an average individual in the defendant’s position foresee that the type of injury the plaintiff sustained was likely to occur?
If the answer to this question is yes, the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. If a defendant breaches that duty and it results in damages, then the defendant is liable for negligence.
If the answer to that question is no, the defendant will not be liable for negligence.
What Types of Damages Can a Judge Award an Injured Plaintiff?
An injured plaintiff who is able to prove that the defendant is liable for their injuries may be entitled to personal injury awards. A plaintiff may be able to recover two types of damages: damages for their injury and damages for the consequences of that injury.
There are two categories of compensatory damages a plaintiff may be able to receive: general damages and specific damages. General damages are awarded for the plaintiff’s injury itself.
- General damages include compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and trauma.
General damages include compensation for issues that cannot be assigned a monetary value. Because of this, in order to recover these types of damages, it may require the testimony of an expert, such as a psychiatrist or physician, to assign a monetary value to the injury.
Special damages are intended to compensate an individual for the specific consequences of their injury, such as medical expenses and loss of wages. These are items which can be assigned a precise monetary value.
- Documents which can be used to determine the amount of wages lost due to an injury include doctor’s bills, pay stubs, and other medical bills.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of a personal injury lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have related to double or treble damages awards. A personal injury claim is often complex, especially when calculating damages.
Your lawyer can review your case, advise you regarding the laws and statutes in your state, and represent you in court. Your attorney will be able to ensure that your claim for double and treble damages is included in your complaint and put before the court.
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