Punitive damages, also known as “exemplary damages” in California, are damages assessed to punish a defendant for overt negligence in causing your injury. The defendant is usually a company, insurance firm, medical practice, or another large firm. Punitive damages are commonly asked for in medical malpractice, product liability, and more severe injury lawsuits.
It’s important to note that punitive damages are commonly not insurable under the current California laws and may amount to some of the highest compensation awards for personal injury cases in the state.
Under current California personal injury laws, in a trial, the jury can award punitive damages in a personal injury case if it sees compelling evidence to do so. You and your personal injury lawyer must prove using clear, detailed, and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct amounted to malice, oppression, or fraud.
Also, punitive damages are usually awarded only if there has been proof of the defendant’s intentional terrible acts. Also, almost all California-sanctioned insurance policies exclude coverage for damages caused by intentional acts or intentional negligence of the insured.
Punitive damages, if called for in a personal injury case, can add substantial compensation amounts. However, the California courts commonly will not allow a punitive damage award to exceed a certain percentage of the defendant’s net worth. Typically, no higher than 10 to 30 percent of the defendant’s net worth.
It’s clear, though, that since most of these cases involve large corporate or other business entities, the dollar amount awarded can be significant.
Your Costa Mesa or Riverside personal injury lawyer’s negotiating skills, experience, and knowledge will be invaluable in deciding how to legally pursue a punitive damage award and how much you may receive.
Are My Punitive Damages Determined in California
In most personal injury lawsuits, punitive damages are an essential element of the suit. Usually, personal injury cases may focus on “compensatory damages.” These are designed to compensate you for your injuries due to the defendant’s negligence. However, your experienced personal injury law firm plaintiff may be able to pursue both compensatory and punitive damages.
There are six factors used to determine if you can receive punitive damages, they are:
- The precise nature and extent of your injuries.
- The unreasonableness of the defendant’s actions.
- The comparative strength of the defendant’s case to yours.
- The changes you incurred in your life following your injury and how they also may affect your future.
- Your compensatory damages.
- The sued parties’ financial resources.
If your injuries are severe enough to have changed your life, wage earning capacity, and more, your personal injury lawyer, versed in these legal matters, will undoubtedly sue for a substantial amount of punitive damages. However, these cases are complex, and the expertise of your Costa Mesa or Riverside personal injury law firm is mandatory.
In California, What Are Punitive Damages Accomplish?
Remember that punitive damages differ from “compensatory damages” and others your lawyer may be asking for. However, punitive damages are utilized under specific circumstances and usually serve two principal functions:
They are used to:
- Punish the defendant’s behavior – They are meant to punish the particularly egregious conduct by the party that caused your injuries.
- They also are meant to set an example – Punitive damages may also be referred to as “exemplary” damages. This is because they are intended to serve as an example to dissuade the defendant, and others, from behaving as they did in your case.
It’s important to note that punitive damages are vaguer, more complex, and involve much thoroughness and detail to file and win legally. They can amount to a considerable amount for you and your family. Even moderate to severe personal injury cases can mean the difference between getting the treatment you need to recover. Additionally, your family’s future may be in jeopardy, and punitive damages will positively impact their future.
Do You, As the Plaintiff Receive a Punitive Damage Award?
In the eyes of the California courts, the actual purpose of punitive damages is to set an example rather than supply you with compensation. However, you will still receive all or a significant portion of any punitive damages awarded. Your case is unique, however, and you should discuss thoroughly and in detail the need to pursue punitive damages with your personal injury lawyer.
There are times when the frequency of punitive damage requests is exaggerated to maximize the compensation obtained. In real life, though, punitive damages drastically reduce the likelihood of injurious behavior repeating itself and help you, as the victim, to be in a financial position that will secure your ability to get the care you need and thrive financially.
What Must Do Seek Punitive Damages?
You must specifically ask for an award of punitive damages in your personal injury lawsuit. However, you commonly cannot request the specific dollar amount you seek in a punitive damages claim.
The sued party (or defendant) can request for punitive damages to be “bifurcated” or tried as a separate case. If your claim is bifurcated, the jury will not hear any evidence of the defendant’s p financial condition unless and until you:
- First, win the initial personal injury lawsuit.
- And the jury determines that the defendant is guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud.
After (and if) these two criteria are met, the jury will hear evidence of the defendant’s finances and determine the dollar amount of punitive damages that may be awarded.
Winning a case that includes punitive damages is extraordinarily complex, but the outcome can affect your and your entire family’s future. Therefore, it’s mandatory that you work with a qualified, experienced, aggressive, and winning California law firm experienced in these complicated cases and their presentation.
I Do Want to Pursue Punitive Damages; How Should I Proceed?
Under California law, punitive damages cases are some of the most challenging yet essential to formulate, present and win. Your personal injury law firm should have an aggressive and winning history in these cases, as well as trial experience. Be diligent in working with the right Costa Mesa or Riverside personal injury law team.
The ”right” law team will analyze your case thoroughly and endeavor to determine the best way to approach, file, and win your case. Don’t leave your health and financial future up to chance; consult with a “fighting” law firm today.