Punitive damages are the most difficult type of damages to recover on in a personal injury case. In fact, punitive damage compensations are awarded only in a very small percentage of cases. Defendants who are guilty of punitive damage are generally considered egregious, gross and in need of major punishment.
What are Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Law?
While it can be common for an injured person to file a claim against an offender to receive compensation for their injuries, a punitive damages case does not seek to compensate for injury or damage. Rather, they are meant to be a consequential deterrence for the offender to never repeat his or her action again. Think of punitive damage suits as legal reprimand to the defendant. Because this type of consequence can be so difficult to put a numerical value on, successful punitive damages cases are highly controversial and contested. For these reasons, if you are seeking a punitive damage case, contact an attorney right away. Brylak Law is a knowledgeable law firm with experience in successful punitive damage cases. Contact our firm for a free evaluation to see if you have a ligitimate case.
When Will Punitive Damages Be A Possibility?
Punitive damages are normally not rewarded unless it is proved that gross negligence or intentional misconduct occurred.
- 1. Gross Negligence: Reckless behavior that constitutes a complete disregard for human life. In order to find someone liable for gross negligence, it must be shown that there was an element of recklessness in their behavior. There is no standard of recklessness in a normal negligence case. An example of gross negligence would be where a landlord was informed of asbestos in his or her building and the landlord does not treat the asbestos. As a result of the landlord’s failure to treat the asbestos, some of the tenants get extremely sick or worse as a result. The landlord’s knowledge of the situation and failure to do anything would be considered gross negligence.
2. Intentional Misconduct: The conscious or willful disregard of the rights and safety of another. This is very similar to gross negligence, but there is a difference. While gross negligence claims are inexcusable, they are not necessarily intentional. An act where the defendant knows of the harm being inflicted, and inflicts the harm purposely, is proof they committed intentional misconduct. An example of intentional misconduct would be a situation where a driver engaged in road rage and intentionally ran another driver off the road.
Examples of Cases Where Punitive Damages Might Be Rewarded
- Extreme medical malpractice– a surgeon leaves an alien object in the patient’s body during surgery or amputating the wrong limb would be an example of situations where punitive damages would be awarded.
- Conduct that puts the general public at risk- An example of this would be if a person pulls a gun out in a crowded public area and people are injured as a result. Any behavior that puts people’s lives in grave danger and is extremely dangerous will most likely result in punitive damages being rewarded.
- Conduct that displays a complete disregard for the laws of your state- An example of this would be setting off fireworks in a place where they are illegal and a fire results. The fire causes severe damage and people are harmed as a result.
How Much Can Be Rewarded in Punitive Damages?
Different states have different rules on punitive damages. According to Chapter 41 of the Texas Statutes, punitive damages are capped in the state of Texas. The amount awarded usually will fall between $250,000 and $750,000. In Texas, punitive damages are rewarded based more on economic damages to the plaintiff.The jury must be unanimous in their verdict for punitive damages to be rewarded.
If you have a case where you think punitive damages might be rewarded, contact Brylak Law for a free evaluation of your case.