When exploring your options for a personal injury claim, you may find yourself trying to understand the two categories of damages: compensatory and punitive. While most personal injury claims successfully obtain compensatory damages, not all claims qualify for punitive damages.
Punitive damages carry a two-fold purpose: to punish the defendant for their behavior and to deter others in the public or in a similar situation from doing the same. Punitive damages are much different than compensatory damages and they do not reimburse the plaintiff for any economic losses due to their injury.
A personal injury claim is based on losses that a plaintiff faces. These include:
- Medical expenses (past, current, and future)
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
After compensatory damages have been calculated, the court will then decide if punitive damages are necessary and, if so, add the punitive damage award on top of the compensatory damage award.
Does My Case Qualify for Punitive Damages?
As mentioned above, punitive damages are not given in all personal injury claims – in fact, only a select few will ever see punitive damages. To receive punitive damages, the court must assess the facts of the claim, as well as the behavior or actions taken by the defendant. When the defendant’s actions are considered reprehensible, punitive damages may be awarded.
To determine if a case qualifies for punitive damages, the court will look specifically for the following elements:
- The plaintiff must first be awarded other damages, such as compensatory damages or restitutional damages. Punitive damages are never awarded on their own.
- The defendant must have acted more than negligently; instead, their actions must be reprehensible, malicious, and/or intentional.
How Damages are Calculated
Punitive damages are awarded in relative proportion to the compensatory damages. The actual amount is typically based on the degree of seriousness of the acts that resulted in the harm to the plaintiff.
However, note that punitive damages are capped in Illinois – they cannot exceed three times the amount of general damages under Illinois statutes. For example, for small verdicts, which are less than $100,000, punitive damages cannot exceed $300,000. These damage caps do not apply to product liability claims or bad faith claims.
Exploring Your Options for Compensation
If you have a potential personal injury claim, speak with an attorney at Malman Law today. Our attorneys can assess the facts of your case and determine if you may be eligible to receive punitive damages on top of the prospective compensatory damage amount. Call for a free consultation appointment at 888-247-2160 or fill out an online contact form with your questions.