There are generally two different kinds of damages involved in any personal injury lawsuit: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate an accident victim for their accident-based damages and losses. While compensatory damages allow a claimant to seek reimbursement for lost wages, property damage, and injuries they incurred, punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for their wrongdoing.

These damages are legal compensation that a defendant may have to pay in addition to the compensatory damages. In general, a court will impose punitive damages when the compensatory damages seem to be insufficient for the injuries that the victim incurred.

Punitive damages go beyond compensating the aggrieved party and are designed to punish defendants whose actions are considered to be grossly negligent or intentional. They are also known as exemplary damages if they are imposed to set an example for deterring others from committing a similar act. 

Contact legal professional teams that can help you learn the best ways for you to handle your matter. A lawyer can guide you through every step of your case and help with the claims process. Most personal injury cases do not lead to the award of punitive damage. They are the extra monetary rewards that a personal injury claimant may seek beyond the general and the special compensatory damages. The law does not require that a judge fulfill a litigant’s request for punitive damage.

How to determine whether your case may involve punitive damages?

Not every plaintiff will get these damages in a personal injury case, even if they succeed on their claims. Punitive damages are generally only granted in cases in which the judge wants to prevent others from taking similar actions or deter the offender from committing the same act in the future.

The goal of most personal injury lawsuits is to make a victim “whole” after any negligence-based accident. A judge might decide to impose extra punitive damages when the compensatory damages are not an adequate remedy for any injured plaintiff. The same may occur if the judge wishes to impose a penalty on an offender for some egregious activities. To obtain these damages, you should show a reasonable basis for demanding this award.

When can a judge impose punitive damages?

Punitive damages are generally considered to be rare, but they are awarded from time to time. Here are a few circumstances that might lead to the imposition of punitive damages on a defendant:

  • Deliberate intent: Any act that purposely causes harm to others is generally met with severe consequences. If the party who caused the injury did it intentionally, then there is a chance that a court will award punitive damages to the plaintiff.
  • Gross carelessness: In some cases, an injury occurs because of extreme negligence or some other specific reckless actions, even where there is no deliberate intent to cause the harm. For example, if a driver operates their vehicle recklessly and causes an accident that injures someone else, they may be liable for punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
  • Criminal acts: When a crime is committed, punitive damages may overlap. For example, when a reckless driver violates the traffic laws and it leads to an accident, a court may be more likely to award punitive damages to the victim.

How can a victim demand punitive damages?

If you think that your case qualifies for punitive damages, then you should make sure that you have an experienced legal professional to stand by your side. Cases that involve punitive damages tend to have more at stake than basic personal injury actions. When selecting an attorney to represent you in a case you suspect may involve punitive damages, you should carefully choose someone who is highly proficient and committed to looking out for your best interests.

Punitive Damages Can Affect Your Case

Many claimants wonder how much compensation they can seek as punitive damages. At present, there is generally no definitive cap on the amount of punitive damages that a court can award. The amount would depend on the judge overseeing the case, who can determine the award amount that they believe is appropriate for the given situation. 

A judge listens to all sides of a case, considers the damages that the victim incurred, and determines who may have been at fault for the injuries. If the judge thinks that the compensatory damages are insufficient to make the victim whole and that the victim needs additional compensation, they may award punitive damages that are reasonably proportionate to the negligent party’s acts.

It is important to consult with an experienced attorney who can evaluate how much your case could be worth. In most cases, the award of punitive damage awards should not be more than four times the compensatory damages awards. 

A knowledgeable San Antonio personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether you should expect an award of punitive damages in your unique personal injury case. If so, you may be eligible to receive compensation that goes beyond compensatory damages alone.