Learn what punitive damages are and what kinds of cases they apply to
If you have been injured in a personal injury accident, you may be entitled to compensatory damages for related expenses and suffering. In rare cases, your jury award may also include punitive damages.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are awarded to punish the at-fault party (defendant) when their egregious conduct caused a personal injury accident. Punitive damages are meant to discourage the defendant from acting in such a manner in the future.
When is Someone Entitled to Punitive Damages?
The California Civil Code, Section 3294 states: “In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from a contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”
In this case:
Oppression is defined as horrible conduct that subjects someone to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights,
Fraud is defined as, “intentional misrepresentation or deceit,” and
Malice means, “conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff” or that proves “a willful and conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others.”
Common Situations Where Punitive Damages May be Awarded
Punitive damages may be awarded in a variety of types of cases, including:
- Personal injury
- Intentional torts such as sexual assault, abuse claims, and assault and battery
- Wrongful termination of employment claims
- Business torts where the plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant is guilty of fraud
In the personal injury world, one common example of a case that might merit punitive damages would be a car accident case involving a drunk or drug-impaired driver.
You May Not Receive All Your Punitive Damages
It is important to understand that just because a jury awards a certain amount of punitive damages to the plaintiff does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff will receive the full amount. In many states, there is a cap on punitive damages. Although California has no official cap, in practice our courts follow the example of the US Supreme Court, which has capped punitive damages at 9 times the economic and non-economic damages combined.
Why You Need an Attorney
There are a specific set of circumstances that must occur in order for you to request punitive damages. The level of proof for punitive damages claims is much higher than a normal personal injury claim. Therefore, it’s important that you consult with an personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your case and determine if you may be eligible to request punitive damages.
At The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker, we will fight aggressively to prove your need for maximum compensation for all applicable types of damages, including, in rare cases, punitive damages. For a free consultation about your case, contact us at 800-333-0000.