If you’ve been injured by another party’s wrongdoing – whether in the form of reckless, negligence or any intentional act, you may be asking what type of financial compensation is available to you. Serious injuries can mean years of financial hardships for you and your family, so this is a natural question to want to know the answer to. While holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions and deterring future injurious conduct is very important, getting defendants to pay is often how this social change comes about. One of the more dramatic and effective ways this type of accountability comes about is through imposing punitive damages. But, it is important for would-be plaintiffs to understand what punitive damages are and when they are available.
What Are Punitive Damages?
In some instances, any financial damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit act to “punish” the defendant who must then pay. However, there are some key differences between the general damages awarded in an injury suit and punitive damages.
In every personal injury suit (outside of workers’ compensation suits), an injured plaintiff who can prove liability is entitled to recover damages for all medical costs, lost income, and the cost of pain and suffering, which is compensation provided for having to deal with the ongoing pain and mental trauma of the injuries. All of these damages are intended to work together to “make a plaintiff whole” by compensating for the tangible and intangible costs of being injured.
Punitive damages, though, are not intended to compensate a plaintiff for the losses he has suffered. Instead, they are set but instead to punish a defendant from taking reckless or intentional conduct which hurts others. For example, we strive to ensure manufacturers don’t willingly overlook safety hazards based on the equation that they would only have to pay a certain amount of damages to injured plaintiffs. Therefore, punitive damages are ordered to prevent defendants from making dangerous and reckless decisions.
When Punitive Damages Are Available
Punitive damages are generally not paid when a defendant makes an honest, if unreasonable, mistake due to basic carelessness. These damages are more likely to be awarded in cases where defendants acted recklessly (meaning they acted wrongly in spite of glaring risks) or intentionally to endanger others. Examples of when such damages are paid are when a person intentionally hurts another person (e.g. ramming a victim with one’s car) or when a manufacturer willfully ignores risks to make higher profits off a dangerous product.
We Are Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys In Long Beach
At Mahoney Law, our personal injury team – led by by partner Kevin Mahoney, has experience winning verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients across Long Beach and Southern California. Our attorneys understand the anxiety and fear that you and your family are going through following a personal injury, and are dedicated to representation on behalf of our clients to help get you what you need.