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What are Punitive Damages?

  • Courts award punitive damages to punish clients for especially egregious instances of recklessness or negligence.
  • While some think plaintiffs regularly receive punitive damages, courts rarely award them.
  • The process of calculating punitive damages is extremely intricate.
  • A skilled personal injury attorney will seek punitive damages if the circumstances of the case allow.

When the court wants to send a message to the defendant in a personal injury case, the judge or jury will levy punitive damages. What are punitive damages? They’re a penalty for especially egregious negligence or behavior.

You should know about punitive damages if you’ve suffered an injury because of another party’s negligence. While courts rarely award them, the possibility always exists. The attorneys with Sand Law would like to help you understand punitive damages so that you know whether or not you may be eligible.

We’re standing by to help if you need legal representation. While we’ll never promise you’ll receive punitive damages or any other type of compensation, we’ll do all we can to help you achieve a positive result in your case. Please call 651-291-7263 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Understanding Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, often referred to as exemplary damages, are much different than compensatory damages injury victims typically receive. The court tailors compensatory damages to redress the tangible losses the plaintiff incurs. These include accident-related expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, etc.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, serve a dual purpose. Not only do they function as a financial penalty levied against the defendant, but they also operate as a deterrent against intentional or grossly negligent actions.

Unlike compensatory damages, courts design punitive damages to have a broader societal impact. If a jury awards punitive damages, they do so to discourage similar misconduct.

Punitive Damages in Minnesota Personal Injury Cases

When people ask, “What are punitive damages?” many assume juries consistently award them. That’s not the case. Not every plaintiff will be eligible. They must prove that the defendant’s conduct was deliberate, malicious, or displayed a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

One example of a punitive damages award is the 2019 Minnesota case of Carney Lien v. Casper Construction Inc., et al. The plaintiff alleged that a construction company negligently loaded a dump truck with rocks. One of the rocks fell off, crashing through the plaintiff’s windshield and causing a severe injury.

While the defendant claimed the injury occurred due to a freak accident, the plaintiff argued the company negligently overfilled the truck. The plaintiff claimed the defendant so overloaded the truck that rocks were falling off the top and sides. After hearing evidence supporting the plaintiff, the jury awarded more than $4.7 million in punitive damages.

How are Punitive Damages Calculated?

As with most aspects of personal injury law, calculating punitive damages is an intricate, nuanced process. Some compensatory damages, on the other hand, are typically much easier to calculate. For example, an attorney only needs your medical bills to determine your expenses. They only need your pay stubs to prove your lost wages.

Rather than quantifying measurable losses, punitive damages consider various factors in a complex assessment. Courts closely examine the egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct. They carefully scrutinize the extent of financial harm the plaintiff suffered.

The court aims to impose a penalty that is harsh enough to dissuade future misconduct without being too harsh. This deliberate evaluation process ensures a fair and just application of punitive damages.

The Process of Claiming Punitive Damages

Initiating a claim for punitive damages requires a thorough legal process. To substantiate the claim, the plaintiff must present compelling evidence that establishes the defendant’s state of mind and underscores the severity of their actions.

This multifaceted process often requires a meticulous investigation. The investigation involves collecting relevant documents, securing witness testimony, and obtaining expert opinions to construct a robust case.

An experienced attorney is indispensable in this process. They ensure that the evidence meets the stringent legal standards required for the court to consider punitive damages. Attorneys must have unwavering attention to detail and a strategic approach to present a compelling case capable of withstanding thorough scrutiny.

Common Misconceptions About Punitive Damages

It seems there’s quite a bit of misinformation on just about any topic you can research on the internet. Punitive damages are no exception.

As stated earlier, many people think juries always award punitive damages. They’ll hear about a high-profile case where the plaintiff won millions of dollars and assume most cases have a similar conclusion. But it’s challenging to secure punitive damages.

Another misconception is that courts award punitive damages to pay the plaintiff for the misery they’ve experienced. The truth is that courts do this not to benefit the plaintiff but to punish the defendant and to convince others not to make the same mistake. If you’re considering legal action, it’s essential you know punitive damages are very rare.

How Sand Law Can Help You Get the Most Compensation for Your Damages

At Sand Law, we never make promises. No ethical law firm ever would. We can’t guarantee you’ll win millions of dollars in punitive damages. We can, however, promise we’ll work tirelessly to ensure you obtain every dollar you deserve.

Our experienced attorneys build strong cases that withstand court scrutiny. We provide the highest-quality legal representation and give our clients the knowledge and support to navigate the legal system successfully.

If you want to schedule a free case evaluation, please use our online form or call Sand Law at 651-291-7263.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are punitive damages rare?

Juries don’t award punitive damages very often. They typically reserved them for cases involving intentional or grossly negligent misconduct. Courts carefully evaluate the circumstances before awarding punitive damages.

How much will my settlement offer be?

The amount of a settlement offer, including punitive damages, depends on various factors, such as the severity of the defendant’s conduct, the harm suffered by the plaintiff, and the defendant’s financial standing. An experienced attorney can provide a more accurate assessment based on the specifics of your case.

What does “damages” mean in personal injury law?

Damages are the financial losses a person suffers from an accident caused by another’s negligence. Some damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses, are tangible. Others are subjective, such as pain and suffering and lost quality of life.