What Are Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

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    29-May-2015

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Punitive damages, which are also sometimes known as exemplary damages, are different from actual damages that are awarded to a plaintiff. Whereas actual damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the losses he or she suffered due to the harm or injury caused by the defendant, punitive damages go beyond actual damages because they are intended to punish the wrongdoer. Please contact us http://www.hmrwlaw.com/ask-a-personal-injury-attorney today for immediate attention to your case.

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  • 1. What Are Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case? Punitive damages, which are also sometimes known as exemplary damages, are different from actual damages that are awarded to a plaintiff. Whereas actual damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the losses he or she suffered due to the harm or injury caused by the defendant, punitive damages go beyond actual damages because they are intended to punish the wrongdoer. They go beyond what is necessary to compensate the plaintiff for his or her losses. Additionally, they are intended to deter other people in the defendants position from making the same choices or acting in a bad way. Legal punitive damages were first established in England in the 1700s, and have long been a part of American civil law. Today, they are awarded in the case that a defendants behavior was particularly reckless and intended to cause deliberate harm. Punitive damages are usually restricted to tort cases, which includes personal injury cases. However, it is a rare case when a defendant is ordered to pay a very large amount (in the millions of dollars) to a plaintiff in a personal injury case. These are large cases that tend to attract media attention. In reality, they do not happen often; research conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that only two percent of tort cases involve punitive damages, and the average punitive damages award is less than $50,000. By law, punitive damages in the state of Virginia are capped at $350,000. While laws regarding punitive damages differ from one state to another, the United States Supreme Court dictates that punitive damages must be reasonable. Whether or not a particular punitive damages monetary amount is reasonable depends on the facts of the case and the amount of criminal or civil fines that cover similar behavior or actions. A reasonable punitive damages award also depends on the ratio of the punitive damages to actual damages. If the ratio is 4:1 or higher, courts will treat the punitive damages amount with doubt. The Supreme Court has also ruled that, while a judge or jury cannot impose punitive damages based on the actual harm the defendants behavior caused to people not involved in the lawsuit, the judge or jury can consider that harm as a part of determining how serious and punishable the defendants behavior was. For example, in Philip Morris U.S.A. v. Williams, which took place in 2007, the Supreme Court held that the punitive damages award could not attempt to make Philip Morris pay for the damage caused to every single smoker who smoked the companys cigarette products. However, the court was allowed to consider the large number of people who had been harmed by the products in deciding how badly Philip Morris may have acted in covering up information that discussed the dangers of smoking. If you wish to seek punitive damages in your personal injury case, your best course of action is to ensure that you have the assistance of an aggressive personal injury attorney. The personal injury attorneys of Howard, Morrison, Ross and Whelan, located in Northern Virginia, provide

2. highly personalized, dedicated legal services in personal injury cases. Please contact us http://www.hmrwlaw.com/ask-a-personal-injury-attorney today for immediate attention to your case.

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