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What Are Punitive Damages? A Car Accident Attorney Explains.

By: Fred Moore | Mar 29, 2018

At Moore Law firm, our car accident attorney is committed to helping clients understand their rights when they have been injured due to someone else’s negligence. Many people have a vague idea of the damages they may be able to recover when they are injured in an accident, and punitive damages can be tricky to comprehend. So, what are punitive damages? Our car accident attorney explains.

Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages

In Alabama, there are two types of damages that may be recovered when you are hurt in an auto accident – compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages “make the plaintiff whole” and can include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate the plaintiff but are instead intended to punish a defendant for particularly egregious or reprehensible conduct and act as a deterrent to prevent others from doing the same.

Punitive damages are awarded in only a very small percentage of cases. To recover punitive damages in a car accident injury case, a plaintiff must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with malice, deceit or wantonness, which is defined in Alabama Code 1-11-20(b)(3) as “reckless or conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”

If a person’s behavior was so reckless that it can be concluded that the defendant knew his or her actions would lead to injury or harm to another, he or she may end up paying punitive damages. For example, if your injuries were caused by a drunken driver or someone who was deliberately driving in a dangerous or aggressive manner, filing for punitive damages may be a possibility in your case.

How Are Punitive Damages Determined?

Courts look at punitive damages on a case-by-case basis, and consider many factors when determining the amount of an award. In Alabama, punitive damages in civil actions that involve physical injury may typically be three times the amount of the compensatory damage in order to uphold on an appeal.

There must be a reasonable basis for a plaintiff to seek punitive damages in a car accident lawsuit. To deter frivolous claims, if there is limited or no evidence of wantonness or deceit, a court can impose monetary sanctions on the plaintiff and his or her attorney for seeking punitive damages in certain cases. That’s why it is essential to have a qualified car accident attorney review your case to determine whether or not you are entitled to seek punitive damages.

If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, we can help. To learn more, contact our car accident attorney at Moore Law Firm to schedule a consultation today.