At Lewis Law Firm, we’re dedicated to helping personal injury victims receive justice and the compensation they deserve. That’s why we believe it’s essential to educate our clients on critical aspects of the law so they can best understand their rights and make informed legal decisions. In personal injury cases, punitive damages can serve as a powerful tool to fairly compensate personal injury victims and hold defendants accountable for their malicious or intentional behavior. Whether you’re a recent injury victim or simply looking to learn more, we’re here to provide the information you need regarding punitive damages.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at what punitive damages are, when they’re awarded, how they’re calculated, and more.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are meant to punish at-fault parties for conduct that causes harm or injury. The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate victims but rather to serve as a deterrent against similar negligent conduct in the future. This is why punitive damages can often be substantial sums of money that far exceed the actual amount needed to compensate an injured person. Additionally, punitive damages are rarely ever covered by insurance, so defendants must pay the damages out of pocket.
Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages: What’s the Difference?
Unlike punitive damages, compensatory damages are meant to compensate plaintiffs for all economic and non-economic damages they incurred due to their injury. Compensatory damages are determined while calculating pain and suffering. Economic damages include things like lost wages, medical bills, property damages, and more, while non-economic damages include factors like loss of normal life, pain and suffering, grief, and other factors that don’t have an easily defined monetary value.
Simply put, the main difference between punitive and compensatory damages is that punitive damages are meant to punish at-fault parties, whereas compensatory damages are intended to make injured parties whole by reimbursing them for the value of their economic and non-economic damages.
When Are Punitive Damages Awarded?
Illinois law outlines several factors that determine when punitive damages may be awarded. Notably, a jury must decide when punitive damages are necessary. Because of this, punitive damages are awarded during trials rather than out-of-court settlements.
To receive punitive damages, a personal injury attorney must strongly make the case that the defending party’s actions were “fraudulent, intentional, willful, and wanton” and caused injury or damage to the plaintiff. Furthermore, a jury must determine that “justice and the public good require” punitive damages to be awarded to punish the defendant and discourage others from similar behavior.
Punitive damages can not be awarded in every case, however. For example, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases are not eligible for punitive damages in Illinois.
How Are Punitive Damages Calculated?
The amount of punitive damages awarded is determined by the jury serving on the case. Illinois law asks juries to consider the following three questions when determining punitive damages, with the first question being the most significant in deciding the amount to be paid:
- How reprehensible was the defendant’s conduct?
- This question bears additional considerations, including the circumstances of the conduct, the frequency and history of the defendant’s misconduct, whether damages were primarily physical or economic, and more.
- What was the actual and potential harm caused by the defendant?
- What amount of money is necessary to punish the defendant and discourage others from future conduct?
- The amount must be reasonable and proportional to the actual and potential harm suffered by the plaintiff.
Attorney Brian Lewis is Here to Fight for Your Rights
If you’re considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, it’s important to understand the law. An experienced attorney can help you understand what punitive damages are and how they apply in your case. They can also help you determine if you have a case that could result in punitive damages being awarded by a jury.
At Lewis Law Firm, we have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you navigate the complex world of personal injury law, including the possibility of seeking punitive damages. If you have been the victim of a personal injury, don’t hesitate to contact attorney Brian Lewis today. He can help you understand your rights and options and work to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and take the first step toward justice.