Understanding Punitive Damages

If you experience a personal injury, you likely know that you may be able to be compensated for the event through the courts. If you are able to prove neglect, you can often receive damages that are designed to help get you back to where you were before the injury. These damages are known as compensatory damages and should cover things like medical expenses, missed work, rehabilitation, and more.

In some cases, you may also be able to receive punitive damages. Under Alabama law, punitive damages aren’t there to compensate the victim for their injury, but instead to punish the person who caused the injury. While the intent is to punish the other party for their actions, in most cases the damages will actually be awarded by the defendant’s insurance company.

What Cases Qualify for Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant has shown serious malice, recklessness, or intent to cause harm. This means that simple neglect is not going to be sufficient to qualify for this type of damage. If you were injured in a car accident, for example, where the driver of the other vehicle was traveling at 100+ miles per hour, cutting in and out of lanes, and showing no concern at all for the safety of other drivers, your case could qualify for punitive damages. This is just one common example of what types of cases qualify under Alabama law.

Limits on Punitive Damages

There are no set limits on how much the punitive damages can be, but the laws simply say that they can’t be “excessive.” What excessive means exactly will be left largely up to the judge, but in general it is not to exceed three times the amount awarded as compensatory damages. In most cases it would be significantly less. If the judge or jury awards an extremely high amount, the defendant will almost certainly appeal the case, which can result in it dragging on long into the future. This is why most people prefer a substantial yet reasonable amount when it comes to punitive damages.

Does Your Case Qualify for Punitive Damages?

If you have been injured in a car accident, due to medical malpractice, or any number of other things, it is important to determine whether or not to seek punitive damages. Attorney John M. Totten has years of experience representing victims in personal injury cases and will be happy to look over your case to determine the right course of action. While most personal injury suits don’t involve punitive damages, they should always be sought when appropriate. Contact us to schedule a consultation and see what your next steps should be.

Written by John M. Totten

John M. Totten

John's office is in Athens, Alabama, where he has helped thousands of people in North Alabama with everything from family law issues, to catastrophic injury and death cases, to criminal defense.