If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit, then odds are you have suffered damages at the hands of someone else’s negligence. Sometimes, a defendant may act so carelessly that the judge charges him or her punitive damages. These damages are meant to deter the person from behaving in that way again. These are for punishment, rather than to pay for any direct damages.
When it comes to punitive damages, there are a lot of misconceptions. Here are two facts to clear up some of the myths.
Punitive Damages Are Rare
Some people believe that punitive damages are common. When you think of personal injury law, you may think that the person deserves to be punished for his or her actions. Punitive damages are extremely rare. Whether a judge will order punitive damages depends heavily on the case itself. For instance, in cases where someone acted grossly negligent, there is more of a chance that there will be punitive damages.
Punitive Damages Are Reasonable
Some behaviors cause a high risk for others. Punitive damages are meant to serve as a deterrent for the defendant or others to commit the same offense. Often, the defendant has to act in a way that was particularly harmful or malicious. For instance, if a driver loses control of their car while tailgating or attempting to frighten another driver, then he or she may have to pay punitive damages. The amount has to be relative to the actual damages. A judge cannot order punitive damages if there are no compensatory, nominal or other damages.
Punitive damages can never exceed a 10 to one ratio. If they do, then this is considered unconstitutional by the federal government. Likewise, you cannot have punitive damages that exceed 100,000 dollars. Mostly, when punitive damages are offered, the plaintiff suffered direct harm. Each state has its laws surrounding punitive damages. With their laws, there also caps to how much a person can be asked to pay in punitive damages.There are a lot of myths surrounding punitive damages. Some plaintiffs believe that punitive damages are common in every situation, whereas others may believe that they are offered frivolously. The truth is that the punitive damages are rare and must be reasonable. Often, the costs for punitive damages are modest compared to the claim.