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What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are awarded in addition to actual damages when in the aftermath of a personal injury claim. Considered punishment to the defendant, or the person who caused the accident, punitive damages are awarded by the court and are usually only awarded if the person’s behavior was especially harmful. Consult your personal injury lawyer if you think your case could qualify for punitive damages.

How are Punitive Damages Applied? 

Punitive damages are not as common as you might think, and they are not awarded very often. There is no specific test to use as assigned by the Supreme Court when it comes to awarding punitive damages or not. So, the discretion is up to the individual courts and what they think is deserved based on the defendant’s behavior. 

However, punitive damages have to be assigned responsibly, and they can’t be awarded in a way that will harm or exasperate the defendant. They are only meant to encourage the defendant to behave more responsibly in the future. 

How Punitive Damages Work

Punitive damages are always assigned alongside other damages. They are never assigned alone. They will increase the victim’s award and give extra punishment to the defendant. They are usually added to economic and non-economic compensatory damages to help pay for the victim’s medical bills, property damage, or other fees that have accrued because of the accident. 

Some Examples of Punitive Damages 

Legal terms are not always easy to explain and understand. Sometimes it’s easier to look at examples and see exactly how punitive damages play out in the courtroom. Hopefully, this will help show you how the awarding of these damages can help you as a victim. 

If you were hit by a drunk driver and faced extensive medical care such as brain injury, spinal cord trauma, or severe burns, the court will look at the driver’s blood-alcohol level and the speed they were driving when they hit you. If they are determined to be especially negligent when driving or this isn’t their first DUI, the court could add punitive damages to the other fees to discourage them from drunk driving or drinking as much alcohol in the future. 

Another example is if you take an advertised supplement that is supposed to help with hair growth. After taking the supplement, you fall violently ill. You can file a civil product liability  lawsuit against the company. If the court determines the company knew this was a side effect but didn’t disclose it on the bottle, you might be awarded punitive damages. This will also encourage the company to make sure they disclose all side effects in the future before they sell their products. 

Partner with a Lawyer Today 

If you have been in an accident, consider partnering with a lawyer to help you meet filing deadlines, gather evidence, negotiate a settlement, and represent you in court when necessary. Halperin Law Center can help you make a full recovery when another party is liable for your injuries, loss, and hardships. Schedule your free consultation by calling 804-527-0100 or by filling out the contact form on our website.