What Are Punitive Damages?
There are several types of damages available in a personal injury case. The most common type of damages are compensatory. Those damages are meant to pay for the direct harm you suffered. This might include medical bills, loss of work, even emotional damage, loss of companionship and loss of life enjoyment. There is another kind of damages though, and these are called punitive or exemplary. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for your injuries. They are meant to punish the defendant (the person or company that hurt you) for its actions.
Why Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are normally given in a case where the behavior of the defendant was so bad, either grossly negligent or intentional, and that behavior so angered the jury or judge, that a punishment is appropriate. Normally, the purpose of that punishment is to discourage the defendant from engaging in the same behavior again.
Frequently, when those seeking to cap damages bring up cases where they feel the amount of money awarded is too great, they are complaining about punitive damages. However, normally, in such cases, these damages are provided for a good reason. In such cases, normally the defendant has engaged in the same behavior, over and over again, with a complete and total disregard for the safety and well-being of the plaintiff or society as a whole.
Am I Entitled to Punitive Damages?
In most cases, people are merely negligent, meaning that are not engaging in behavior that is grossly negligent or intentional. As a result, in the majority of cases, traditional compensatory damages are the only kind that will be appropriate. However, there are times when the behavior of the defendant is so terrible, that yes, punitive damages might be appropriate.
Whether it is appropriate to seek punitive damages in your case is an important decision. When you meet with your attorney, if he believes punitive damages might be a possibility in your case, he will discuss it with you.