How are Punitive Damages Calculated in a Personal Injury Case?
By Space Coast Daily // November 9, 2020
Punitive damages in a personal injury case are meant to punish the person or agency responsible for causing the injury. Punitive damages are only awarded to the plaintiff when the defendant’s behavior is found to have been exceptionally reckless or malicious.
There must be gross negligence. Gross negligence is typically defined as conduct that demonstrates a conscious disregard for another’s safety.
While negligence involves a violation of the general duty to act with care, with gross negligence there is a layer of recklessness. An example of gross negligence would be a business that fails to fix an old roof that collapses and injures customers.
If a building inspector ordered that part of the building to be closed until fixed and the business kept it open anyway, that would constitute gross negligence. The business knew of the unsafe condition and consciously disregarded its customers’ safety.
There are times when an injured person may have waived their rights to sue. For example, someone taking a sky diving class might have signed such a waiver. But in some cases, the states will not enforce a waiver if there was gross negligence.
In addition, punitive damages are legal reimbursements that a defendant is ordered to pay on top of compensatory damages. They are given by the court when compensatory damages are deemed to be insufficient.
Some other behavior may give rise to punitive damages, such as a driver who causes serious injury or death while driving recklessly when drunk. When a defendant’s actions also constitute a crime like sexual assault is another example when punitive damages may be awarded.
How Much are Punitive Damages Worth in a Personal Injury Claim
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for determining when punitive damages will be awarded. There is also no one formula for calculating just how much those damages will be worth. That being said, punitive damages can be significant. It can add up to a lot of money on top of compensatory damages.
To arrive at the dollar amount of punitive damages, juries and judges weigh a number of factors, such as:
• The egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct
• The severity of the damages
• How much money it will take to send a definitive message to both the defendant and to the public
• The defendant’s financial situation
Punitive damages cannot be disproportionate or excessive the harm caused. It depends heavily on the circumstances. It’s important to note that some states put a limit on how much punitive damages can be and some don’t.
Some states limit punitive damages to three times the amount awarded in compensatory damages. In the states where there is no cap, punitive damages can go much higher than three times the amount of compensatory damages.
It’s also not unusual for a jury to deliver a high monetary amount of punitive damages in a personal injury case only to have the judge reduce the amount of punitive damages awarded.
This only applies to punitive damages and does not affect the amount of compensatory damages. Unlike other types of damages awarded in a personal injury case, the plaintiff is required to pay taxes on their punitive damages award.
Keep in mind that there must be a reasonable basis for an injured party to seek punitive damages in a personal injury claim. If there is limited or no evidence of gross negligence, intentional misconduct or deceit, the court can levy sanctions on the injured party for seeking punitive damages.
And most personal injury cases do not entail punitive damages. It’s wise to have an experienced attorney handle your personal injury case.
A lot of judges and juries have ranged greatly in how much they award with punitive damages. The only way to get an accurate answer for what your case might be worth it to consult with an experienced attorney.
An experienced attorney can help you understand whether or not you can expect a punitive damage award for your personal injury case.
You just may be eligible for more compensation than just compensatory damages. If you are involved in a punitive damages claim or would like to know more about what you’re entitled to, contact The Wininger Law Firm. For more than five decades, the personal injury lawyers at The Wininger Law Firm has represented people injured in accidents.
They fight hard for all of their clients. The lawyers at The Wininger Law Firm have handled many personal injury cases involving punitive damages.
You’ll get an experienced attorney who knows all about punitive damages and can answer all of your questions. If you’re eligible for punitive damages, the lawyers at The Wininger Law Firm will fight hard for you.