Clarksburg Car Accident Punitive Damages
If you sustained injuries in a motor vehicle collision, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses, or damages, through a personal injury action. Common damages include payments for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, Clarksburg courts can also award punitive damages in certain car accident cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for especially egregious conduct. While these damages are rare, they can further secure a victim’s financial wellbeing in certain cases.
Punishment for Outrageous or Grossly Negligent Conduct
Punitive damages are most commonly awarded in drunk driving car accident cases. Courts award these damages after DUI collisions because drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication and then operating a vehicle is a dangerous activity that greatly increases the likelihood of a serious accident. Society has determined that such conduct is reckless, grossly negligent, and needs to be deterred.
An increasingly common justification for punitive damages is using a cell phone while driving. Studies have shown that using a cell phone behind the wheel, such as texting and driving, is as bad if not worse than driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. While these are the most common situations, the conduct of the at-fault party is the deciding factor. Any behavior that would be deemed outrageous or grossly negligent could give rise to punitive damages.
Additionally, intentional conduct could give rise to punitive damages. For example, if someone takes a truck onto the highway knowing that it has faulty brakes, a jury may find the behavior grossly negligent. If this conduct led to an accident, courts may award punitive damages.
How Common are Punitive Damages in Car Crash Cases?
Punitive damages are rare, but they are also unheard of. Ultimately, the available damages are unique and depend on the specific facts of a case. In some situations, punitive damages may be justified but practically unavailable due to insurance policy limits. For example, someone may be so severely injured in a car accident that they become paralyzed or otherwise permanently disabled. This situation may justify a multimillion-dollar verdict or settlement, but the defendant may only have $100,000 of insurance coverage and no other available assets from which to recover compensation. In this case, a jury is unlikely to award punitive damages.
Calculating Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are calculated a bit differently from other personal injury awards. Compensatory damages are determined based upon the harms and losses of the injured person. In contrast, punitive damages are based upon the conduct of the at-fault party. They tend to scale with the intentionality of the defendant’s conduct or the level of the outrageous behavior. Notably, punitive damages are subject to a strict cap of five to one. This means the punitive damage award cannot exceed five times the amount of the economic and non-economic damages.
Discuss Your Case With a Clarksburg Car Accident Attorney
Car accident injury attorneys handle punitive damages cases in Clarksburg similarly to other injury cases. The punitive damage aspect adds another layer of potential recovery, but it also requires additional work to uncover potential assets in the event there is insufficient insurance coverage. For this reason, it can be exceptionally difficult for unrepresented victims to pursue fair compensation. Effectively pursuing a punitive damages case requires advanced knowledge and resources.
For help with your case, call today and schedule a consultation.