If you have been injured in an accident, in Alabama or elsewhere, then you may be entitled to damages as compensation for the harm caused. For example, if a defendant slams into your car from the side, then you could ostensibly sue and recover for past and future medical expenses.
This category of damages — known as “compensatory” damages — is not necessarily the only one available to injured plaintiffs. In fact, many high-value, multimillion-dollar recoveries are based on punitive damages. Punitive damages are only infrequently awarded, but they are an important aspect to consider when bringing a case against the defendant.
Let’s take a closer look.
Punitive damages are meant to “punish” the liable defendant for particularly egregious or malicious conduct. Simple negligence is not enough to qualify for punitive damages — the defendant must have done something with reckless disregard for the safety of others, or even have done something with intentional malice. For example, if a defendant crashes into you intentionally because they are angry, or drunk, the court may decide to award punitive damages in that case.
Punitive damages multiply the amount of compensatory damages by up to seven times. If you have a case worth $100,000 (i.e., medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.), then the punitive damages claim could be as much as $700,000, for a grand total of $800,000 recovered.
Courts may exercise discretion in choosing to award punitive damages, and generally speaking, they tend to be cautious in awarding punitive damages given their multiplicative nature. On top of that, you must be able to show that the defendant did, in fact, engage in malicious or egregious conduct. This can be rather difficult to prove.
Ultimately, whether you are entitled to punitive damages depends on the particular circumstances of the case. Recall that the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant — and by doing so, discourage others from engaging in similar misconduct.
If a defendant has engaged in misconduct, but it led to only minor damages, then the court is unlikely to award punitive damages. If the defendant’s conduct is not clearly egregious, then the court is also unlikely to award punitive damages.
Cross & Smith is a Tuscaloosa-based personal injury firm with extensive experience helping clients throughout the state of Alabama secure compensation for the accident-related injuries that they have suffered.
We work closely with our clients to ensure that we have the details necessary to advocate on their behalf in a truly personalized manner. This gives us a significant advantage when it comes to navigating a complex and otherwise uncertain litigation process — and our results prove it.
If you’d like to get in touch with an experienced Tuscaloosa injury attorney at our firm, call us at 877-791-0618 or contact us through our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.
"My father-in-law was involved in a horrible traffic accident. The firm was great at handling all of his questions. In the end they got him a great settlement, but the thing he remembers most is that the people at the law firm cared about him as a person. I would highly recommend them to anyone in need of legal services."