What are Punitive Damages?

If you’re a lawyer, you’ve probably heard the term “punitive damages” thrown around once or twice at least. And if you aren’t, you’re probably wondering what it means, both for you and whatever case you bring to the court. If you are seeking out a construction accident lawyer, and you wish to know what punitive damages are, here is a quick walkthrough to get you up to speed.

The basics

Punitive damages are a sort of one-two punch to hammer in how badly the defendant messed up, to ensure that said defendant will not commit the offence again. They’re a certain amount of money given to a plaintiff out of the defendant’s own pocket in civil lawsuits, like property damage or personal injury. As stated above, it’s meant as an add-on to the money the defendant would’ve already had to have paid if they lost the lawsuit, to ensure that the defendant gets the message that what they did was wrong.

However, punitive damages can only be invoked in certain situations, such as:

  • Situations in which a large number of people were injured (such as a several car pileup)
  • Cases where the defendant was fully aware of the harm he/she was doing and chose to do it anyway
  • Cases where the injury suffered by the plaintiff was extreme even by normal standards
  • Cases of malpractice in which the doctor’s error is entirely inarguable and indefensible
  • And finally, cases in which the defendant in question intentionally chose to commit an illegal action, fully aware and in fact, planning on the possibility of hurting someone.

The above factors determine whether any legal action taken against the defendant also warrants punitive damages to be added on top of normal damages. However, in cases where the defendant has truly screwed up, there is another way to really make sure they get the message.

Double and Treble damages

As the names suggest, double and treble damages are damage awards, similar in nature to punitive damages, but with one major difference: they are respectively double and triple the size of whatever amount the defendant was already going to have to pay in punitive damages. These cannot be granted automatically, the court has to either receive a statute granting them permission to do so, or the plaintiff has to specifically request a double or treble damages award.

To sum up, punitive damages are a means of adding insult to injury to a defendant who has knowingly inconvenienced or outright injured many people with clear malicious intent. While the criteria for invoking these damages may be highly specific, it gets the point across when it is. So, if you’ve been in an accident, and you know for a fact that the other party either could’ve stopped it and chose not to or intentionally caused the accident, bring that up to your lawyer at Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., and you may be entitled to punitive damage awards.

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