Over-The-Top Harm: What To Know About Punitive Damages
Not all forms of harm are accidental. In some cases, you might end up harmed in some way as a result of negligence. To find out what punitive damages are and what to expect if your injury fits the bill, read on.
Negligence and Accidents
You might not readily know the difference between negligence and an accident, so it might help to read some examples of both:
- A driver runs a stop sign and hits you. That is probably accidental.
- A driver is texting a friend, runs a stop sign, and hits you. That is probably a case of negligence.
- A child tragically dies in a swimming pool. That may be an accident.
- A child tragically dies in a condominium swimming pool after numerous complaints of a broken gate around the pool. That is potentially negligence.
Understanding Lawsuit Damages
Victims of harm may be entitled to money damages. Depending on the circumstances, those damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. This category of damages is known as compensatory damages because the victim is compensated for the actual cost of the harm done. Punitive damages, however, ignores those issues entirely and provides a sum of money to a victim based on other factors. Here is what else to know about punitive damages:
- Not every lawsuit will include punitive damages and, as a victim, there is no way to ask for punitive damages. The judge and jury decide whether or not punitive damages are appropriate for the case in question. An ordinary car accident, for example, probably won't pay punitive damages unless there are negligence factors at play. Distracted driving, fleeing from law enforcement, driving while intoxicated, and other negligent actions can bump the case up to the punitive damage level, though.
- It's not an either/or situation. You can be paid both punitive damages and compensatory damages if appropriate. You cannot, however, be paid only punitive damages.
- A lawsuit is only as valuable as the defendant's ability to pay the judgment. For the punitive award to be more than just an empty gesture, the defendant must have insurance or assets worthy of seeking. That means that punitive damages often go hand-in-hand with deep pockets. Big companies who cause harm have the resources to pay punitive damages.
Most people just want to be paid what they are owed when harm occurs. Unfortunately, some who are entitled to punitive damages fail to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer and are left with a woefully inadequate settlement. To ensure that doesn't happen to you, speak to a lawyer about your case right away. A personal injury attorney can help you navigate your case and get the compensation due.