Most car accidents involve some form of negligence. When you suffer injuries in an accident caused by another party, you have the right to seek compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Sometimes you can quickly determine fault, and other times, it requires a more thorough investigation that may become more complicated if both parties share responsibility. Even if you share fault, you could still recover some compensation for your losses. You may even seek punitive damages as well.
An award of punitive damages is rare. This type of damages does not compensate the plaintiff for the accident’s physical, emotional, or financial losses. The word “punitive” refers to the infliction of punishment on an at-fault party. In this context, the court may award punitive damages if the responsible party’s actions were so egregious as to warrant punishment beyond simply paying for the victim’s losses.
State law mandates whether or not you can receive punitive damages. Therefore, you would likely benefit from speaking to a car accident attorney about the possibility of punitive damages in your case. Simple negligence is not enough to financially punish the defendant. The states that allow punitive damages generally require:
Determining whether or not the defendant acted recklessly or with no regard for the well-being of others is sometimes a complex process. Suppose the defendant has faced similar charges in the past. In that case, the likelihood of punishment is significantly higher because punitive damages are designed to deter the responsible driver from continuing that type of behavior. In cases where the driver’s gross negligence leads to the victim’s death, the deceased’s family would likely receive punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
There are limitations to the amount a jury can award in punitive damages. The court considers the defendant’s financial state to decide what is appropriate. For example, personal injury cases that involve wrongdoing by a large corporation or a wealthy individual will likely result in a higher payout of punitive damages. Some states limit the amount of punitive damages by placing a cap on the potential award or only allowing an amount appropriately proportionate to the compensatory damages awarded. Punitive damages in the amount of four times the compensatory damages are nearing too much but are still considered constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The more common type of damages awarded in a car accident car is compensatory damages. Further categorization breaks compensatory damages down into two types: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include the losses that already have monetary value supported by tangible evidence:
The non-economic damages are sometimes more challenging to quantify. They have no direct tangible evidence to prove monetary value. Still, a personal injury attorney may use your written statement and testimonies from friends and family to attest to these losses. Non-economic damages include:
In a wrongful death case, a close friend or family member may receive compensation for funeral expenses, lost income that the deceased provided to the plaintiff, lost benefits provided by the deceased, and the loss of companionship.
If you suffered a severe injury in a car accident, there may be little you can do in the immediate aftermath apart from waiting for emergency medical assistance. However, if you are able, you should follow these steps:
Contact a car accident attorney as soon as you can. The statute of limitations for a car accident lawsuit in most states is two years. An attorney can help you file the insurance claim and start negotiations.
The losses you suffer after a car accident are often devastating, and you should not have to face a lawsuit alone while you try to recover from your injuries. A car accident attorney can help you in several ways:
At Fielding Law, our team of car accident attorneys will represent your rights and interests fiercely. Cases that warrant punitive damages are often the most physically and emotionally taxing. If the insurance company fails to offer a reasonable settlement, we will take your case to trial and stop at nothing to get every dollar you deserve. We have helped hundreds of car accident victims secure compensation. Call us today or contact us online to set up your free evaluation. Once you become our client, you become our top priority.