What Are Punitive Damages?Click For Your Free Consulation
Compensatory damages are commonly awarded in personal injury cases in New York. These help victims cover financial costs and help to make up for things like pain and suffering. In limited instances, a court might decide that punitive damages should also be awarded.
What exactly are punitive damages? Simply put, it’s money that the defendant is ordered to pay as a punishment for their behavior.
In New York, courts have held that punitive damages can be appropriate when there’s clear and convincing evidence that a defendant’s conduct exhibits:
In other words, the defendant’s actions were so outrageous or morally reprehensible that punishment makes sense.
As long as your lawyer can prove by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant acted with a complete disregard for your safety or health, punitive damages can be awarded.
Most often, however, punitive damages are awarded to plaintiffs in:
While punitive damages are rare, it’s worth discussing the possibility of this type of award with your attorney.
Punitive damages are different from other damages in their design and purpose. Economic damages and non-economic damages are meant to compensate the injured party. In lawsuits, the aim of a lawsuit is to make the injured party “whole.” This means that the injured party is compensated for whatever loss he or she suffered.
Economic and non-economic damages are categorized as compensatory damages. The first purpose of any lawsuit is to make sure the injured party is compensated properly. If an injured party suffers an injury that heals in a relatively short period of time, then he or she would likely receive economic damages only.
If the injuries or their effects are more permanent, then the victim would be eligible for non-economic damages for permanent disability, inability to lead a regular life, and other damages not easily quantified financially.
Punitive damages are awarded in addition to any economic and non-economic damage award. Punitive damages are awarded when the court wants to punish the responsible party for their outrageous conduct.
These damages are also meant to prevent others from engaging in future similar conduct. When punitive damages are awarded, they can be substantial. If a punitive damage award is too high, it can be reduced by a higher court.
Many states put caps on how much in punitive damages someone can be awarded. In New York, there are no specific rules on the level of punitive damages available. In general, neither a punitive damage nor non-economic damage award in New York is capped. This means there is no limit to the amount of punitive or non-economic damages that can be awarded in a specific case.
In New York, insurance currently cannot cover punitive damages as part of a policy’s coverage. There is a bill pending in the New York State Senate that would allow insurance coverage to cover punitive damages, civil penalties, and other non-compensatory damages
It is rare to get a punitive damage award, so don’t go into a case expecting that punitive damages will be awarded. Once it is clear that you are eligible for economic and/or non-economic damages, then you should explore the possibility of punitive damages.
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