Legal Law

What Are Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims?

Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims

A jury may award punitive damages in a personal injury case if the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious. A jury typically considers several factors to determine the amount of punitive damages that should be awarded. Some of these factors are objective, while others are subjective.

A primary consideration is how reprehensible the defendant’s conduct was. The higher the degree of reprehensibility, the more likely it is that punitive damages will be awarded. The degree of reprehensibility also considers whether the defendant’s behavior was especially reckless or disregarded the safety or health of others. It also considers the likelihood that the defendant’s actions will lead to similar misconduct by others.

The severity of the damage, either in terms of bodily injury or property damage, is another key factor. The more severe the damage, the more likely that punitive damages will be awarded. This is a major reason why drunk driving accidents, for example, frequently result in punitive damages being awarded. The injuries that are suffered can be life-changing, and they often lead to wrongful death.

There are also certain cases in which it is possible to get punitive damages if there is evidence of malice. The jury must believe that the defendant acted with oppression, fraud, or malice, and the court must find that this was more likely than not. This is a much higher standard than the preponderance of the evidence required in normal negligence claims.

What Are Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims?

It is not always easy to prove that the defendant acted with malice, but there are exceptions. For instance, there have been many lawsuits against Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, after it was discovered that the product caused cancer. The jury in the Rounup case was able to find that the company’s weedkiller contained glyphosate, which is linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers. This was enough to award punitive damages in excess of the couple’s compensatory damages.

In order for a jury to find that the defendant was acting with oppression, fraud or malice, there must be clear and convincing evidence. This is a higher standard than the preponderance of evidence required in most negligence claims, but lower than the high burden of proof needed to prove that a defendant acted with wilful intent or with conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others.

Some states have placed limits on the size of a punitive damages award, and there are also restrictions on the type of behavior that could prompt a jury to award these damages. For instance, it is usually not appropriate to award punitive damages in cases involving sexual harassment, but it would be proper to award such damages in a case involving other types of bad conduct, like extortion or defamation.

There are also some states that require the jury to be instructed on the proper purposes of punitive damages, which include punishment and deterrence. The jury must be instructed that punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter him or her from repeating the wrongful behavior in the future.