What are punitive damages?

If you were involved in a personal injury incident such as a car accident or a slip and fall, you might gather enough persuasive evidence to file a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages. The key to winning a personal injury lawsuit involves proving the other party committed at least one act of negligence. You have to demonstrate the four elements of negligence, which include a duty of care, breaching a duty of care, causation, and financial losses. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney from Morgan and Morgan can help you prove the presence of the four elements of negligence.

If you convince the judge hearing your personal injury lawsuit that the other party committed at least one act of negligence, you should receive compensation to cover your financial losses. The most common types of monetary damages awarded for personal injury cases are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic damages cover tangible costs, such as medical bills and the repairs done to damaged property. Non-economic damages do not come with a price tag. Instead, non-economic damages cover pain and suffering, as well as loss of consortium. This brings us to the third most common type of monetary damages.

What are punitive damages?

When you meet with an experienced personal injury attorney from Morgan and Morgan, you learn about the process for filing a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages. Your lawyer describes the three types of monetary damages, with a detailed explanation that answers the question, “What are punitive damages?” Punitive damages differ from the other two types of monetary damages because you do not receive compensation to cover financial losses.

Schedule a free case evaluation with a Morgan and Morgan personal injury attorney to determine whether you have a strong enough case to file a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages represent compensation that penalizes a defendant in a civil case for committing one or more acts of negligence. You do not receive compensation to cover the cost associated with medical bills or the emotional issues that often develop because of going through a traumatic event. A judge or jury awards punitive damages to discourage the defendant from committing the same act of negligence again. Punitive damages discourage other parties from committing the same act of negligence as well. For example, a judge awards punitive damages from an automaker that designed faulty brakes on one of its models. Punitive damages alert other automakers to avoid making the same design mistakes.

What Are the Four Elements of Negligence?

Proving the four elements of negligence is the key to winning a civil lawsuit that awards you monetary damages. Judges and juries typically award more punitive damages for cases of gross negligence, which is also referred to as intentional negligence.

Duty of Care

The duty of care doctrine states that one party owes a duty of care to another party to ensure the other party remains safe. Referring to the automaker example mentioned earlier, an automaker has a duty of care to protect customers from getting hurt while operating one of the automaker’s motor vehicles. Proving the presence of the duty of care doctrine is easy in most cases, especially when it comes to consumer safety issues.

Breaching the Duty of Care Doctrine

Breaching the duty of care doctrine involves the defendant committing an act that caused harm to the plaintiff. Your personal injury lawyer must gather and organize convincing evidence, such as photographs taken at the accident scene, as well as camera footage shot from a private or public system. For instance, when an automaker designs faulty brakes for one of its models, the company has breached the duty of care doctrine.

Incident Caused Your Injuries

The third element of proving negligence is to demonstrate a personal injury incident caused your injuries. One of the tactics used by attorneys representing defendants in personal injury cases is to claim the injuries sustained by the plaintiff came from another source. For example, if you sustained a broken arm caused by a car accident, the attorney representing the defendant might claim you injured the arm some other way. To prove a personal injury incident caused your injuries, you have to submit copies of medical bills and records that verify you received treatment right after a personal injury incident. 

Suffered Financial Losses

Your injuries must have caused financial losses. Submitting copies of bank statements and timekeeping records should be enough evidence to show the court that you lost money because of the injuries sustained from a personal injury incident. If you cannot link your injuries with financial losses, you can expect the judge hearing your case to deny your request for monetary damages.

Consult With a Morgan and Morgan Attorney

With more than three decades of experience, Morgan and Morgan helps clients maximize the value of punitive damages when they file a civil lawsuit. Our highly-rated personal injury attorneys understand what it takes to prove the four elements of negligence.

Learn more about what are punitive damages by scheduling a free case evaluation today with one of the personal injury attorneys at Morgan and Morgan.