The Process of Punitive Damages


When a personal injury attorney can prove that someone is guilty of causing damages or being negligent, malicious, or fraudulent, a punitive lawsuit is filed on the client’s behalf. The lawyer will attempt to show whether the party acted in gross negligence or willfully. Punitive damages go beyond the compensation phase. This would be a civil lawsuit where the client would be awarded a specific financial amount to cover for the exemplary damages incurred by the other party.

Due Process

The recovered compensation for punitive damages is restrictive according to the 14th Amendment and the Due Process Clause. However, within these restrictive legal guidelines, the judge has the right to impose an amount deemed appropriate. The main purpose of the punitive damage lawsuit is to punish the other party for wrongdoing and it does not focus entirely on the compensation as was mentioned before. The federal court has implemented rules and guidelines for ensuring that damages are fair and reasonable.

Civil Lawsuit

For punitive damages in a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Why is that so? Well, it is because the person seeking damages is the one that has to prove liability; not specifically because of the injury, but also as it relates to whether the actions of the defendant were egregious to the extent of committing fraud, malice, and extreme negligence. The judge or the jury has to decide the amount to award to the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff does need to hire an experienced attorney to help with the case.

Reasonable Cause

After someone has an accident and is injured, there is a lot of emotional pain. During the lawsuit for punitive damages, if the final outcome is extreme negligence, then financial penalties will be imposed on the other party. These rules are clear and will be explained to the plaintiff by the attorney. As a result of the clarity of these rules, it deters plaintiffs from filing a lawsuit for punitive damages without having a reasonable cause. It also protects the other party, if the situation turned out to be a genuine accident and not extreme negligence.

The Concept

The whole idea of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for any proven misconduct to deter the person from doing it again. The judge is in control of the outcome; even though, the attorney is involved. However, the attorney will prepare the plaintiff on what to expect and the documents that should be entered into evidence.

One important thing to note is that punitive damages are taxable and should be entered on your tax return as “Other Income.”

Seek Legal Help

If you think that you or a family member should receive punitive damages for an accident caused by someone else and you are not sure how to handle it, then you should seek the help of a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will explore all of the options you have. You would provide the attorney with details of the accident and your attorney will then plan a defense for the court proceedings.



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