While there are a lot of people who have heard the term punitive damages before, either through TV, radio, or the news, they are actually quite rare when we are talking about personal injury cases. This is because the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, but rather to punish the defendant. Thus, in order for punitive damages to be awarded, the defendant must have done something exceptionally cruel, reckless, or otherwise bad enough to deserve punishment. But more of that below.
The general purpose of damage awards
Following an accident which left somebody injured, the one hurt, who is called the plaintiff, will often be left with medical bills, rehabilitation costs, income loss, and other financial, physical, and emotional losses which deserve compensation by the party who has caused their injuries through either recklessness, carelessness, or other forms of negligence. And that is where compensation in the form of damage awards comes in. They support the plaintiff in their time of struggle and help them find their way back to the state they were in before the accident took place and turned their life upside down.
Specific purpose of punitive damages
As previously mentioned, punitive damages are not regularly implemented and utilized since they hold a very specific purpose: to punish the defendant. Because of this, a lot of states have implemented specific rules and regulations which set gross misconduct or negligence as a prerequisite for punitive damages to be awarded. There are also other states which instead require the defendant to be proven guilty of deceit, recklessness, or malice. This means that, generally speaking, punitive damages can be awarded in the majority of case types, though they are almost never awarded in cases of breached contracts.
What is the meaning of gross negligence?
In order to prove somebody guilty of gross negligence, it will need to be proven that they acted with an absolute disregard of other people’s safety, rights, or even lives which is the key difference that makes it a punishable offense compared to regular negligence which is classified as a breach of duty of care. Any breach in duty of care can lead to injuries which then can be attributed to the defendant. The plaintiff has the right to sue the defendant and get compensation for the injuries. You can discuss your specific case with a personal injury lawyer in Okotoks.
What is the idea behind punitive damages?
Since punitive damages are used as punishment, they are meant to heavily discourage people from participating, repeating, or expressing the behaviors that caused them to be punished in the future.