Compensatory damages are meant to make up for a plaintiff’s economic and noneconomic losses arising from a car accident. In certain situations, however, additional compensation could be awarded specifically to punish the defendant for their malicious or egregiously negligent actions.
These kinds of damages are not available in every case, and a seasoned car accident attorney knows how difficult they can be to obtain. If relevant, though, punitive damages in Hanover County car accident cases could make up a significant portion of your overall recovery in a successful outcome.
Under certain circumstances, a jury can award punitive damages, but it is still a rare occurrence. When awarded, punitive damages refer to acts that are willful and wanton, meaning they are of a level that shocks the conscience of a reasonable person or even intentionally causes harm.
The question a plaintiff and their attorney must consider is how much punishment is appropriate to show the defendant the seriousness of their actions. If this is the defendant’s third time getting a DUI, for example, the punitive damages should be higher because they have not learned their lesson yet. Text messaging, taking one’s hands off the wheel intentionally, and reckless speeding are all examples of behaviors that commonly lead to punitive damages in Hanover County car accident cases.
Punitive damages are not calculated the same as other compensation because they are individually tuned to each defendant, depending on the circumstances of their case. Likewise, there is not a set ratio for how much punitive damages can be granted compared to compensatory damages.
Under Virginia state law, there is a cap of $350,000 on punitive damage awards that can significantly affect the outcome of a car accident case in Hanover County. While a jury does not typically hear about the cap, a prospective plaintiff may want to consider it when they are looking at how much to ask for in punitive damages versus compensatory damages.
Sometimes a jury will grant punitive damages essentially in a compensatory damages format. If a defendant was charged with drinking and driving, for example, a jury’s distaste for that kind of behavior could translate into a higher compensatory damages award than they would otherwise give, which could be a way to get around the cap on punitive damages.
Attorneys could seek punitive damages in Hanover County car accident cases for injured individuals by investigating if the defendant has a history of DUIs, speeding, or other reckless behavior. In a lot of cases with punitive damages, a history of irresponsible behavior could be particularly important, since the insurance company may not take the idea of punitive damages seriously enough.
Depending on the situation, legal representatives could send subpoenas to the state police to find out about any other convictions, and they can also try to get court records from those cases and subpoena cellphone records. A car accident lawyer could discuss with you the best way to approach punitive damages in your particular case if you call today.