What Are Punitive Damages?

There are a variety of damages that a plaintiff, also known as the party who is filing the lawsuit, could receive. This depends on the circumstances of the accident, along with what injuries the plaintiff has suffered. For example, if the plaintiff has suffered severe injuries, then most likely he will recover more in damages. 

To determine what type of damages you may receive for your accident lawsuit, contact our attorneys for a free consultation. Our car accident attorneys offer free case evaluations where we will review the different details of your claim and determine how much your claim is worth. Your claim could be worth thousands of dollars, and you may not even know it. It takes an experienced attorney to make sure that you get the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys at Megeredchian Law have been representing victims for years and understand that it may be very difficult and stressful to be going through a severe injury. It could be even more stressful when the defendant, also known as the party who the lawsuit is brought against, engaged in some type of malicious behavior during the accident. There is a specific type of damage that addresses the defendant’s bad behavior, also known as punitive damages.

What are damages?

Damages are compensation awarded to the plaintiff for any injuries that the plaintiff has suffered. Compensation can include compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are those types of Damages that the plaintiff has directly suffered. For example, examples of compensatory damages include medical bills, past lost wages, future lost wages, along with emotional pain and suffering. Compensatory damages are almost always awarded in every single personal injury case that the plaintiff wins. However, there are also punitive damages. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, and it is up to the discretion of the court.

What are punitive damages?

In order to determine if you are eligible to receive punitive damages, or to determine if your claim has the possibility of being awarded punitive damages, contact our attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their act. Usually when the defendant engages in some type of dangerous act, the court will likely award punitive damages to make an example out of the defendant and prevent people from taking the same actions that defendant did. Punitive damages are described in more detail under California Civil Code 3294.

What do I have to show to be eligible for punitive damages?

Punitive damages are considered exemplary damages where the plaintiff must have to show that they are eligible for punitive damages, and that the defendant engaged in 

Some type of fraud or malicious behavior. This is proven through clear and convincing evidence by the plaintiff. Clear and convincing evidence is also known as the burden of proof the plaintiff has. If the plaintiff does not prove that the defendant engaged in fraudulent or malicious behavior, then the court will most likely not award punitive damages.

The statute tries to prevent plaintiffs from suffering despicable conduct and cruel hardship. If the court finds that the plaintiff did suffer hardship, they most likely will be able to award punitive damages.

What is fraud?

Fraud is a type of action where the defendant deceives the plaintiff. Examples include false misrepresentations or lies to get the plaintiff to rely upon that statement.  For example, if a kidnapper tries to lure their victim in through false misrepresentations, they most likely will be charged with fraud.

What is malice?

Malice is a term used to describe despicable conduct by the defendant. Malice is considered to be intentional conduct, which means that the defendant must know about the actions they are taking. Examples of malice include throwing stones over a highway overpass onto other vehicles.

How does the court award punitive damages?

Punitive damages are most likely awarded in driving under the Influence, or drunk-driving cases in personal injury. This is because a drunk driver engages in malicious intent when they consume large amounts of alcohol, yet choose to get behind the wheel and drive. In California, every driver has a duty to one another to prevent any foreseeable accidents. When a drunk driver gets behind the wheel, they are not following that standard, and most likely will breach that duty. This could hold the drunk driver responsible for punitive damages.

When the court or judge determines that the plaintiff has satisfied all the elements necessary to prove punitive damages, they most likely will award punitive damages based on the severity of the defendant’s actions. For example, if the defendant’s actions were not that severe, then the punitive damages amount will not be excessive.

In order to determine how much punitive damages should be awarded, California does not have a clear-cut formula to determine how much a plaintiff deserves in punitive damages. However, many have decided through past cases that it is limited to 9 times the amount of compensatory damages.

The amount will most likely be excessive, but just enough to parallel the defendant’s actions. This is meant to discourage other potential defendants from any misconduct similar to the case at hand.

What type of evidence will I need to prove punitive damages?

The evidence differs depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you are involved in a car accident, then the most relevant pieces of evidence you may need to prove your punitive damages claim could include:

  • Accident report filed by the police
  • Medical bills
  • Severity of the injuries
  • Medical records
  • Property damage suffered
  • Injury photos
  • Statements from eyewitnesses
  • Statement from the victim on how their life has changed after the accident

There are several other types of evidence that may differ and are necessary depending on the circumstances of the case. If you believe you have been involved in an accident that involves fraudulent or malicious behavior, contact our legal team today. 

Will punitive damages be awarded in my settlement award?

If the parties choose to not move forward with a trial, they most likely will come to settlement negotiations. The settlement negotiation is a final settlement amount determined by both parties. A settlement amount may contain punitive damages depending on the circumstances of your case. An experienced attorney will be able to argue for punitive damages included in the financial settlement, along with other costs such as medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress that you have suffered.

Do not wait, call our car accident lawyers today

Do you think your case is eligible for punitive damages? Contact our punitive damages lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. During this consultation, we will take a look at all the details involved with your claim, and determine if the defendant did engage in some type of malicious or fraudulent behavior. Keep in mind that a qualified attorney will only be able to prove punitive damages. If you were to hire a non-experienced attorney, then it may be difficult to prove to the court that you are eligible for punitive damages. 

Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation. Our car accident attorneys at Megeredchian  Law are on standby to help you get the justice you deserve.

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