Understanding Punitive Damages In A Personal Injury Case

Posted on: 12 March 2020


Personal injury laws are in place to protect you financially in situations where other people act negligently and injure you. In addition to receiving direct compensation to cover your medical costs and personal property damage related to the accident, you can also seek out punitive damages. Punitive damages are a monetary reward that is designed to punish the defendant for their extremely negligent behavior. Here are some factors that go into deciding if you should receive punitive damages and how much you can get.

Bad Intent

Did the defendant act in a way that demonstrated that they had bad intent? It is possible that they fully intended to injure you with their actions, giving them a motive behind why the injury occurred. For example, this can happen if the dependent purposefully attacked you and caused your injury. In this situation, it should be easy to prove that the defendant had the intent to cause injury with their actions, with the potential to receive the maximum amount of punitive damages possible.

Reckless Behavior

Sometimes the defendant did not intend to injure you with their actions, but their behavior that led to the injury was reckless. This is common in drunk driving cases. The defendant may not have intended to injure you with their vehicle, but drinking and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is a reckless behavior that is risky and could lead to injury. 

Don't expect to receive punitive damages due to a simple slip and fall accident. The behavior that led to this type of injury is typically not considered extremely dangerous, even if it led to you being seriously injured. The extent of your injury is not considered when determining reckless behavior. 

State Limitations

You should understand that there are limits to how much a person can be fined in punitive damages. Each state has their own limits, and it is typically based on a multiple of the total amount awarded based on the medical bills and personal property damage. This means that there must be some sort of damage that was caused by the behavior that would justify punitive damages. 

For example, if a state limits punitive damages to max out at a ratio of 4:1 and you had $50,000 worth of medical bills, then you could receive up to $200,000 in punitive damages. 

Have questions about how punitive damages will factor into your settlement? Meet with a personal injury attorney for more information.