Am I Entitled To Punitive Damages After A Truck Accident?
If you’re involved in a truck accident, you may sustain severe or life-threatening injuries. If the accident occurred due to the truck driver’s negligence, you might be entitled to receive compensation for all the damages incurred. This compensation usually covers medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other costs incurred due to the injuries sustained.
However, there are other exceptional cases where you might be eligible to receive punitive damages. A legal professional can determine if you are.
Overview of Punitive Damages
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are a form of compensation issued in personal injury cases in addition to the actual damages. Since 1850, punitive damages have been recognized across the U.S. as an essential part of civil law. The purpose of issuing these damages isn’t to compensate the truck accident victim but rather to punish the truck driver or the truck company.
Punitive damages send a message to the truck driver and others that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated or go unpunished. These awards go a long way in preventing truck accidents since most truck drivers will likely change their behavior to avoid being penalized.
However, since punitive damages go beyond economic and non-economic damages awarded in personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove their eligibility to receive this type of compensation. Here is everything you need to know about punitive damages and how you may qualify for them.
What Qualifies as Punitive Damages?
Generally, the laws regarding punitive damages in truck accident cases usually vary from one state to another. Some states don’t allow the recovery of punitive damages from the defendant.
Other states, including Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, will award punitive damages if some circumstances are met. In most cases, punitive damages can only be awarded if the injuries you sustained in the truck accident resulted from the following:
All personal injury claims usually involve allegations of negligence. You must prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care to compensate for your injuries and damages incurred. Additionally, you must prove that the defendant’s breach of this duty of care directly led to the accident, resulting in your injuries.
Gross negligence is above and beyond negligence. It’s defined as an act of extreme degree of risk that can harm other parties. It means that the defendant was aware of the risk associated with a particular action but still proceeded anyway with disregard to the plaintiff’s welfare.
The law defines malice as specific intent by the defendant to cause harm or injure the plaintiff. An example of malice is a truck driver being consumed by road rage and hitting another vehicle.
Fraud occurs when the defendant’s team knowingly makes a false representation to the plaintiff. This includes cases of a trucking company destroying evidence connected to the violated safety regulations.
How Do You Prove You Deserve Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages claims usually involve severe penalties and large sums of money. Therefore, there are some things that your truck accident lawyer must prove to secure punitive damages in your case, including:
To be eligible for punitive damages, you must have been awarded an actual dollar figure for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, mental anguish, among other damages. Punitive damages cannot happen where there are no other damages awarded.
Your truck accident lawyer must show that gross negligence led to the accident. Your lawyer must prove this in two tests, namely objective and subjective tests. An objective test requires your lawyer to prove that someone else in the defendant’s position would have known what they were doing getting involved in an extreme degree of risk.
On the other hand, a subjective test requires your lawyer to prove that the defendant knew about the extreme degree of risk involved but still went ahead with their action.
What Evidence Does the Jury Consider When Awarding Punitive Damages?
When deciding how much to award to the plaintiff as punitive damages, the jury must consider the following evidence:
- The nature of the defendant’s wrongdoing
- The defendant’s net worth
- The extent to which the defendant’s acts offend the public’s sense of decency and justice
- The degree of responsibility of the defendant in the accident
- The sensibilities of all parties involved
- The character of the defendant’s conduct