Most auto accidents happen due to people failing to pay attention while they drive. This is considered negligence. However, when a reckless driver’s poor behavior intensifies to a level of a conscious disregard for the safety of those around them, they deserve additional punishment. This is where punitive damages come in.
As a part of recoverable damages, punitive damages will apply to car accidents involving particularly egregious cases of extreme negligence from the at-fault driver. To find out more about punitive damages in an Indianapolis car accident case, read on below or contact a car accident attorney today.
Compensatory damages are meant to replace things that were lost in an accident. They may include economic or non-economic damages, and the amounts are based on clear evidence presented to court.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the wrongdoer and to deter future misconduct. They are similar to a fine, but it is the injured person who receives the money, not the state.
Punitive damages are not applicable in general negligence cases and they are quite rare in car accident cases. In order to be eligible for punitive damages, the defendant must act with a conscious disregard for the safety of others.
In the vast majority of Indianapolis car accident cases, punitive damages are not awarded. The defendant’s actions must reach a high threshold for the jury to even consider punitive damages. If a court feels that the actions of the defendant reach a certain level of recklessness, the jury may be allowed to consider an award of punitive damages.
For example, if an individual drives recklessly through a crowded pedestrian area, the claim may rise to the level of punitive damages. If someone causes an accident while intoxicated, this, too, can lead to punitive damages.
When determining the amount of punitive damages, the court considers what amount would serve as a deterrent in the future. For example, a large punitive damage award against a major corporation will send a message, whereas a small token punitive damage award may not convey the appropriate severity of the defendant’s conduct.
While there is no formula for calculating punitive damages, most courts will require a reasonable relation between the amount awarded and the amount of compensatory damages awarded. Every case is different, and courts refuse to set a certain ratio. However, judges can take into consideration the amount of compensatory damages in proportion to the amount of punitive damages. This means a large punitive damage award would be reduced by the court if the actual economic damages were insubstantial. Similarly, pursuing punitive damages may impact the amount of compensatory damages available to a claimant.
Every case is unique. An experienced personal injury lawyer could advise a plaintiff on the pros and cons of seeking punitive damages after an Indianapolis car accident occurs.
There are many pitfalls that can occur in personal injury cases. That is why it is important to work with an experienced lawyer during this stressful time. We handle it all, from gathering evidence and filing paperwork to proving liability and negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf. We can even connect you to the medical care you need at no upfront cost.
If you have been hurt by someone else’s reckless behavior, you do not have to suffer alone. To set up your free consultation and discuss potential punitive damages in an Indianapolis car accident case, contact McCready Law Injury Attorneys today.