Understanding Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

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Understanding Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

When you suffer personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligent actions, you may be entitled to seek out legal help in order to collect proper compensation for your injuries. You may find that you suffer in ways that are more tangible, such as monetarily. This can include medical expenses, car repair fees, and so much more. However, it is also possible that you suffer in ways that are more abstract. This can include things like a significant loss of enjoyment of life following your accident or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These effects are just as real as any other, so you may be compensated for these, too.

Many people do not know that there are different types of damages you may be able to collect in a personal injury case. The goal of every personal injury claim is to collect adequate compensation in order to restore the victim’s quality of life to where it was before the accident occurred. It can be overwhelming to try to understand all the details of your case on your own, particularly if you do not have the full and comprehensive knowledge of personal injury law that a professional might. We are here to help. In this blog post, we aim to illuminate a specific type of damages you may be eligible to receive: punitive damages.

What Are the Types of Damages Available in a Personal Injury Claim?

In order to understand punitive damages, you must first have a brief overview of damages in general in a personal injury claim. Because no two personal injury cases are exactly alike, the types of damages available to collect in a personal injury claim really depend on the case itself. Factors to take into consideration may include the type of case, the circumstances of the injury, the laws of the state in which the injury occurred (and in which the case is being filed). However, in most cases, you should be able to rely on certain common types of compensatory damages: (1) compensation for any medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident, (2) emotional distress, (3) loss of companionship or loss of consortium, (4) lost wages, and (5) pain and suffering. More severe cases may entitle the victim to receive compensation for wrongful death or punitive damages.

In order to collect any of the above damages, it is vitally important to keep the most thorough records possible. This may involve keeping copies of any medical bills you may receive, keeping photographs of the scene of the accident, recording journal entries of your emotional state after the accident, or taking note of any damage your relationship with your spouse or partner seems to have suffered as a result of your injury. Taking such action may help you receive as much compensation as you are owed for both your economic and non-economic damages.

It is important to understand the difference between economic and non-economic damages, as some states have instituted “damage caps.” Such damage caps are part of tort reform efforts and generally limit the non-economic damages you may receive, although this really depends on the type of case you are pursuing. However, there are exceptions to damage caps—particularly in instances where the defendant acted deliberately to enact harm. Discussing such matters with an experienced personal injury attorney may help you maximize your settlement.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Understanding Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury ClaimNow you know the basics of collecting damages in personal injury cases. Now what? You may be asking yourself. What exactly are punitive damages? In short, punitive damages are a special type of damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff if their injuries have been deemed to be particularly egregious or the defendant has judged to be especially negligent. These damages are awarded on top of all the other damages you are owed. In fact, these damages are not meant to fulfill the purpose of all other compensatory damages (which is to “make you whole” after your accident and injury). On the contrary, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their wrongful behavior.

In the State of Colorado, it is possible for you to be awarded punitive damages if the jury has decided that the defendant’s actions were committed with “fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct.” In other words, the defendant chose to make a mistake that they knew was dangerous and may have hurt somebody. However, not all cases are eligible for such damages—and neither do all states allow punitive damages to be awarded at all.

You may believe that your case warrants you to collect punitive damages. And that may be true! You may have suffered egregiously as a result of your accident and injury. However, in the State of Colorado, you cannot request punitive damages the way you can request compensatory damages—at least not in your initial claim for relief. Rather, a jury must decide whether or not you should be awarded punitive damages.

If they decide that you are entitled to collect such damages, they will then decide the amount you are owed after a thorough review of the evidence. Be advised, however, that Colorado statutes prohibit the awarding of punitive damages greater than the total amount of compensatory damages. Exceptions may apply, however; in fact, the court may actually increase the amount of compensation in exemplary damages you are awarded to up to three times the amount of actual damages you are awarded. This may occur if the defendant has continued in their wrongful behavior against you or if the defendant has acted to aggravate your damages in a willful or wanton manner during the course of the personal injury claim.

Seeking Legal Help

If you or a loved one have recently suffered personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligent behavior, do not hesitate to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide personal injury lawyers today. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to help victims all across the United States. Do not suffer alone. Let us help you.

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