It’s common to have questions related to the legal process after being hurt in an auto accident which caused serious injury. Among them are questions regarding the types of damages you may be able to recover. Of the different types of damages, people always ask about Sacramento Punitive Damages and Personal Injury Cases, even if they’re not exactly sure what punitive damages are.
What Are Punitive Damages?
In the State of California, the purpose of civil lawsuits is to help the plaintiff or injured victim resume a normal life. Courts and juries do this by giving the plaintiff compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are a monetary payment given to the plaintiff for their injuries or losses. Losses can be property and income losses or lost wages, pain and suffering and other non-economic damages incurred in a personal injury case caused by someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior.
But in some situations, there are exceptions to this rule when the actions are willful, wanton, or heinous. Punitive damages are not meant to give the plaintiff back something that they’ve lost due to an injury accident or negligent behavior. Instead, these damages are intended to punish the defendant for their reckless and outrageous conduct.
Punitive damage awards in Sacramento are to demonstrate that such types of conduct are not acceptable. And therefore, the defendant is punished in addition to the damages they pay as compensatory damages in a personal injury case. Unlike compensatory damages (i.e. medical bills, property damage, lost earning capacity, car repairs, etc.) punitive damages are based on the reprehensibility of the defendant’s misconduct and their ability to pay.
This type of damages are awarded to punish the defendant for bad behavior, and serve as a deterrent to society, discouraging similar wrongful behavior by others that resulted in serious injuries.
Conduct that Gives Rise to Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Law
According to the State of California’s Civil Code 3294, punitive damages are permitted in personal injury cases. In Sacramento, California, punitive damages are also called exemplary damages. The plaintiff in Sacramento County needs to provide clear and convincing proof that the conduct of the wrongdoer, or at fault party, amounted to fraud, oppression, or malice.
In the civil justice system, malice is conduct that is intended by the defendant to cause harm and injury to the plaintiff and behavior that is carried out to disregard the rights and safety of others.
Oppression means despicable conduct that subjects a person to unjust hardships.
Fraud is the intentional misrepresentation, concealment of material, or deceit. It’s made with the intention, on the part of the defendant, to deprive the plaintiff of legal or property rights. All these acts may be sufficient to award punitive damages in California for vehicle accident victims of an injury claim.
This could include cases involving a car accident, motorcycle accident, truck accident, bicycle accident or other motor vehicle accident, even a pedestrian accident where someone has been injured. An experienced attorney is needed to recover compensation for the injured victims.
Courts in Sacramento, California also look at several other factors when awarding punitive damages. These include:
- The nature of the act
- The defendant’s intent in performing a wrongful act
They are weighed on a sliding scale against the harm caused by the defendant to the plaintiff.
It’s important that the negligent party be held responsible for back injuries, catastrophic injuries, broken bones, physical pain, accident injuries or personal injuries resulting from their negligence by seeking compensation, and a settlement offer which may include punitive damages in a personal injury claim.
How are Punitive Damage Amounts Determined?
There is no fixed standard for determining the punitive damage award amount. However, to award such damages, the jury considers:
- What and how reprehensible was the conduct of the defendant?
- Whether or not is there a reasonable relationship between the punitive damage amount and the harm done to the plaintiff
- What amount shall punish the wrongdoer and stop/discourage them from further wrongdoings in the future?
- Also, note that the Supreme Court of the US has more than once held that punitive damages can’t be grossly disproportionate to the actual harm done to the plaintiff. If the punitive damages are grossly excessive, then they could be considered unconstitutional.
Punitive damages in Sacramento, California are capped at a maximum amount not to exceed ten times the amount awarded in compensatory damages. It is crucial to understand that the courts may use discretion when it comes to deciding whether the award for punitive damages is valid or not.
Much higher awards can be upheld, and smaller awards can be turned down. The validity of punitive damage awards largely depends on the facts concerning each case.
Does your case justify Punitive Damages?
For justice and legal assistance, contact Phoong Law Corp today to schedule a free consultation. Our personal injury lawyers will provide an honest case evaluation and whether punitive damages are warranted. We’re injury attorneys that are always on your side, fighting for you to get the settlement and compensation you deserve. You may be entitled to compensation to recover damages. It’s in your best interest to call today to protect your legal rights and ensure the Statutes of Limitations doesn’t run out.