Car Accident Lawsuits and Punitive Damages: Here’s What You Need To Know

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Punitive damages are assessed when the jury wants to send a message directly to the defendant in a personal injury case. They have little to do with your injuries and everything to do with how the defendant acted. When you receive punitive damages, it can greatly enlarge the size of the jury verdict that you receive.

Many people go into a case expecting punitive damages. This is not something that you will usually get in a personal injury case. This form of damages is very rare, and it is reserved for some of the worst conduct. In a normal car accident case, you will usually receive compensatory and economic damages. While you may think that what the defendant did to cause the accident was terrible, the chances are that the jury will see it differently. Things like speeding and illegal turns, while illegal and careless, are not bad enough to warrant punitive damages. While this is bad conduct, it is not extremely outrageous.

These Are Only Awarded When There Is Negligent Behavior

For punitive damages, the defendant must show some kind of behavior that is typically willful or extremely reckless. For example, if the defendant caused a car accident when traveling 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, that would be negligence. If the defendant was traveling 75 miles per hour in a 35 MPH zone or was speeding excessively in a school zone, that could be enough for the jury to consider punitive damages. In addition, drunk driving could be another reason for a jury to award punitive damages. However, these are reserved for only the worst of cases. 

You will not get punitive damages if you settle your case, either at the claims phase or before a jury trial. These are something that only a jury would award. An insurance company would not pay you punitive damages. If the case is one where the defendant did something particularly bad, you may want to wait for the case to go to a jury.

While punitive damages may increase your award, the trial judge would still have their say in the verdict. If a verdict is excessive, the judge could either set it aside or reduce it. The defendant may also appeal an award, which could add extra time to your case. 

Greenville Personal Injury Lawyers

If you have been injured in a car accident, Upstate Personal Injury Lawyers will provide you with experienced and aggressive legal representation. Call us today at (864) 686-5500 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. 


Do I Need to Pay Taxes on Punitive Damages?

Yes. While every other part of your damage awards is not taxable, punitive damages are.

Are There Any Limits on Punitive Damages?

Yes. They cannot be excessive. Usually, this means that they cannot be more than ten times the original award.

Can the Defendant Appeal the Award?

Yes. Either the trial court judge can lower the award, or the defendant can file an appeal.

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