For those hurt by the careless or negligent actions of a person or a business, you can be paid for many different forms of damage. You might physically hurt, your reputation could be damaged, you might have been defrauded, or you might have had a number of other forms of harm come to you through no fault of your own. When it comes to taking your case before a judge and jury, a unique category of damages arises: punitive damages. This form of damage is a world apart from other forms of damage so read on to find out what makes it so different from others.
Not Part of Your Compensation
When you expect to be paid a certain sum of money for the harm that's been done to you, you may ask for a settlement or you may sue for a certain sum of money. That sum will often include things like medical treatment payments, wages lost from your work, lost or ruined personal property, payment for certain types of psychological harm, and more. The unifying factor in personal injury compensation is that it's based on calculations that take into the exact economic losses and issues like pain and suffering. When you go to court, you will state the amount of compensation you expect to be paid in a court judgment. Punitive damages, though, are not part of that stated compensation.
It's Up to the Judge
Instead, it is the judge that decides to award punitive damages. Plaintiffs cannot request punitive damages. Only certain types of harm will prompt the judge to award punitive damages and the parties in the court case might not even expect them. When awarded, they are tacked onto the award for compensation and provided alongside the judgment for the plaintiff. Cases with punitive damages may be those involving well-known defendants, those in class action lawsuits, and those who perpetrated particularity egregious forms of harm. For example, if the driver that ran into you and hurt you was using the self-driving mode at the time, the judge may decide to make an example of the case for others and award punitive damages.
When You Win Punitive Damages
Just like other compensation, punitive damages can be challenged and the verdicts can be appealed. For those that do end up receiving punitive damages, the sum of money can be several times what they expected to get in regular compensation. It should be noted, however, that punitive damages, unlike most personal injury compensation, can be taxable.
To find out more about compensation of all kinds, speak to your personal injury lawyer.