WHEN TO ASK FOR PUNTIVE DAMAGES
Many of us have used or heard the term “Punitive Damages” when discussing lawsuits. However, not many people know what punitive damages actually means. Please allow us to continue with our BLOG series on keeping consumers informed by passing down relevant and important knowledge.
On its face, Punitive Damages are what a plaintiff will demand in a lawsuit when they believe the defendant/at-fault party has committed an act that goes beyond everyday negligence or carelessness. In a case where punitive damages are involved, punitive damages can (and should) be included when an at fault party has acted with gross negligence and/or intentional misconduct.
For instance, at Khalil Law Group, the most common call that we get that would garner demand for punitive damages involves an accident wherein the at fault party was driving/operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We will always argue that operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is indicative of gross negligence and intentional misconduct. Attorneys will often recommend demanding punitive damages in order to punish a negligent party’s bad behavior.
According to California Civil Code Section 3294, a jury is allowed to award punitive damages in personal injury cases. In order to obtain punitive damages, a plaintiff and their legal counsel must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the conduct of the defendant/s amounted malice, oppression or fraud. Typically, these cases are reserved for those wherein an injury occurred due to the defendant’s intentional harm or extreme recklessness.
DEFINING MALICE OPPRESSION OR FRAUD
Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 3294(c), malice, oppression or fraud is defined as follows:
-Conduct that is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff, or
-Despicable conduct which carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.
-despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights
-an intentional misrepresentation, deceit or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant,
-made with the intention on the part of the defendant f thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.
HOW MUCH ARE PUNITVE DAMAGES WORTH?
As much as we hate to use this phrase, the answer really is “that depends!” You see, in the state of California, there is no CAP on the amount of money you can be awarded for punitive damages. To that end, every case is different and circumstances tend to differ.
However, before your eyes get too wide, please note that the US Supreme Court has found that punitive damages must bear a reasonable relationship to the compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff.
In the event that you have been in a car accident, truck accident, boat accident, slip and fall or any other type of incident that involves a personal injury claim, stop and consider whether or not you should be demanding punitive damages. As always, we recommend that you consult with an attorney and ask questions to further your knowledge of this issue and to help you decide on whether or not you should move forward with a claim against another party.
Khalil Law Group is here to help!