Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits
There are two main types of damage in a personal injury case, which are compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate someone for the injuries that they have suffered. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in addition to compensatory damages. They are usually not paid to the plaintiff.
The main purpose of punitive damages is to further punish the defendant. They are also designed to deter people from committing the same act. However, it can be difficult to determine whether punitive damages actually deter bad behavior. Your personal injury attorney can provide more details on the importance of punitive damages.
When Are Punitive Damages Paid?
Punitive damages are paid when the person’s actions are intentional or egregious. In order for one to have to pay punitive damages, the person must either have done something that is grossly negligent or willful.
An action is considered grossly negligent if the act is extremely careless. It is considered willful if it was done with the intention of causing harm. Here is an example of when a person would likely have to pay punitive damages.
A store employee deliberately avoids putting out the wet floor sign after mopping the floor. A person falls and hurts themselves. The store employee can be charged with gross negligence and may have to pay punitive damages.
A real life example of punitive damages is Stella Liebeck vs. McDonalds. In the 1990s, 79-year-old Stella sued McDonalds after she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns after she spilled coffee on herself. McDonalds was found to be negligent because they did not put a hot label on the coffee.
The courts also found that McDonalds had several other prior complaints about serving hot beverages and not informing people that they were scalding hot. Stella received $160,000 in compensation. McDonalds was initially told that they would have to pay $2 million, but the amount was $480,000.
How Much Are Punitive Damages Worth?
There are several factors that will affect how much someone will have to pay. This includes the egregiousness of the defendant’s actions, the severity of the damages and how much money the judge feels will send a message to the defendant and the general public. Punitive damages have to be a fair amount. The maximum amount that one can pay in punitive damages in the state of Texas is $200,000.
Who Will Get the Money?
It is important to remember that the main purpose of punitive damages is to promote the betterment of society. In some cases, a portion of the punitive damages may be shared with the plaintiff. A state can take a portion of the punitive damages by taxing it. The person may also pay a portion of the punitive damages to the state.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Personal Injury Attorney
It is a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney if you want to get compensated and want the defendant to pay punitive damages. We can discuss your case and the options that you have. We will also be able to tell you whether punitive damages will apply to your case.
Our attorneys fight hard to make sure that everyone is fairly compensated. If you need a personal injury attorney, then you should call our law offices today at any of our convenient locations and get a free consultation.
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