What are Punitive Damages?

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If you’re suffered injury because of someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct, it’s only fair you want compensation for your suffering. Personal injury lawsuits seek damages to compensate an injury victim for harm the defendant caused. There are many types of compensation that may be awarded – permanent disability, pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses, for example. However, if a case goes to trial, in some extreme cases victims may be awarded an additional award known as punitive damages.

Punitive Damages Defined

Unlike compensatory damages, an award of punitive damages is designed to punish a defendant and discourage the repetition of similar behavior in the future; they aren’t tied directly to an injury the victim suffered. Though they’re not compensating for a specific injury, the victim receives the punitive damage award from the liable defendant. 

Standard for Awarding Punitive Damages

In most states, Alabama and Florida included, there must be clear and convincing evidence the defendant engaged in intentional misconduct or acted with gross negligence for an award of punitive damages to issue in a personal injury case. Intentional misconduct is a relatively straightforward concept. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is defined as conduct that is:

  • Reckless, and 
  • Constitutes an indifference to or conscious disregard of another’s life, safety, or rights.

Recklessness is not an element of proving ordinary negligence and can be difficult to prove. For example, if a business did not know its roof was failing it might be liable only for negligence. However, if the roof was inspected and the business was told to fix the roof and cited by the building inspector but did not do so for several months, a roof collapse that injured patrons might merit a punitive damage award. 

Limits on Punitive Damages

Each state has decided for itself whether they will limit the amount of punitive damages that are allowed, so it’s advisable to check with a personal injury attorney in your state. However, aside from the limit or “cap” the amount awarded is entirely up to the jury to decide.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney 

If you were injured by another’s wrongful conduct, it’s important you take steps to pursue the maximum amount of compensation possible for the damages you incurred. The skilled Pensacola Personal Injury Attorneys at Stevenson Klotz can evaluate your claim, determine if punitive damages may be available in your case, and fight for you to get the recovery you deserve. We have spent years providing comprehensive, personalized representation and delivering results; we’ve recovered millions of dollars in damages. Call us at (850) 706-4226 or fill out our online Contact Page to schedule your free initial case evaluation. Let us help you put your best foot forward on your case for compensation starting today.

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