Basic Facts About Punitive Damages

Not every person that has a run-in with the law by demonstrating some form of unacceptable behavior gets forced to spend time behind bars. Some drivers that are not sufficiently careful have to pay a fine. Fines control the actions taken by different businesses as well. A few adults that are either careless or neglectful discover that some of their money must go towards payment of punitive damages.

Exemplary damages

That is another name for punitive damages. No plaintiff gets awarded only an exemplary payment. In other words, the court does not award such payments/damages exclusively. Whenever the court tells a defendant to make such a payment, it hits the same defendant with compensatory damages.

Punitive damages do not serve as financial reimbursement for a plaintiff’s losses.

Compensatory damages take on that role. That financial reimbursement is supposed to put the plaintiff back to where he or she was before a given accident. Exemplary payments punish a defendant for wrongful actions. The court hopes that the defendant that must make such a payment will not try again to carry out the egregious action that the court considered to be most objectionable.

What determines the size of a punitive damage award?

The severity of any injury to the plaintiff, or the degree to which the same plaintiff suffered a loss, plays a large part in determination of the amount of money demanded from the person that must pay for such an award. The court also considers the amount of time during which the plaintiff must live with the acquired injury.

The level of the defendant’s behavior gets examined by the judge, before he or she decides on the size of the punitive damages. If that behavior deviated only slightly from what the court deems to be acceptable, then the judge will grant only a small award. On the other hand, a defendant that has been found guilty of egregious and outrageous behavior might have to pay an exceedingly large award.

Finally, the judge will take a close look at the decision in similar cases. Most judges tend to follow the precedent set by other judges, when making earlier decisions. Precedent can be used as a gauge of fairness, and the typical judge wants to be fair. Indeed, the public could object to an unfair or unjust decision.

Of course, any defendant that has received what appears to be an unfair decision has the right to appeal that ruling. Hence, the plaintiff or the representing Personal Injury Lawyer in Georgetown should not count on an immediate payment of whatever punitive damages he or she might have been awarded. An award does not get made until after a second judge has ruled, if a case has been appealed.

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