- October 7, 2022
- In orange County Personal Injury
>When you or someone you love has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you will undoubtedly face significant expenses and financial hardships that would have otherwise been avoided were it not for the accident. Excessive medical costs, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, and repairing or replacing damaged property are just a few of the financial hardships that an accident victim typically has to deal with. It is up to your personal injury attorney to help you fight to get the compensation you deserve to cover these and other related expenses through a personal injury claim.
However, there are situations where those responsible for your injuries acted either out of malice or with extreme recklessness. In these types of cases, accident victims may be eligible to sue for punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for outrageous conduct and to deter them or others from engaging in similar behavior.
Different Types of Damages in California Personal Injury Lawsuits
Although some of these categories may overlap, like when certain compensatory damages are also categorized as economic damages, there generally are three categories of damages related to California personal injury claims:
- Economic Damages: Economic damages in personal injury claims refer to any monetary damages that can be actualized with a receipt, bill, or any other documentation. Economic damages may include medical bills, lost wages, repair or replacement costs of damaged property, and other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the incident or accident.
- Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages that arise from an accident claim refer to compensation for losses that have negatively impacted the victim’s life but cannot be assigned a specific monetary value based on documents and receipts. Examples of common non-economic damages related to personal injury claims in California may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are awarded to accidents by the court to punish or send a message to the individual or entity that was found to be responsible for causing your injury. The court only awards punitive damages if the defendant’s behavior is determined to have been malicious or exceptionally reckless.
Types of Punitive Damages in California Personal Injury Law
Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages explicitly punish the defendant for their behavior. Punitive damages are not awarded as a direct link to injuries suffered by the accident victim. In other words, punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for your loss but rather set an example for the reckless or grossly negligent behavior of the individual that caused the accident.
California law allows accident victims to recover punitive damages in cases where their personal injury attorney can prove that the injuries they suffered were caused by malice, fraud, or oppression on the defendant’s part.
Once the defendant has been found liable in the personal injury lawsuit, the attention will turn to whether or not punitive damages should be awarded. For an accident victim to be eligible for punitive damages in California, a judge or jury must determine that, in addition to being liable, the defendant must be guilty of one or more of these acts:
- An act of oppression. An act of oppression is defined as despicable conduct, subjecting victims to cruel or unjust hardships with a conscious disregard for their rights. Elder abuse cases often involve an act of oppression.
- An act of fraud. An act of fraud is an intentional misrepresentation, concealment of facts, or deliberate deceit made to deprive an individual of their property or their legal rights, thus causing injury. An act of fraud would include a person posing as a medical professional and causing harm.
- An act of malice. An act of malice involves intentional conduct that causes injury or outrageous behavior with a conscious disregard for the rights or the safety of others. Someone liable for a victim’s injuries related to a physical assault may be found to have acted out of malice.
For punitive damages to be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit, evidence of one of the above three acts must be convincing and clear, representing a significantly high standard of proof. Although this standard of proof may not be equal to proof beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal case, it is still the highest standard in a California personal injury lawsuit. A judge or jury must be thoroughly convinced if they are to award punitive damages related to a personal injury lawsuit.
You or your Los Angeles accident attorney will need a reasonable basis to seek punitive damages. If you cannot provide sufficient evidence to support your allegations, you or your attorney could have sanctions brought against you. Those sanctions exist to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
Contact an experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love was injured in an accident caused by another party, you might be entitled to compensation. To ensure you get the compensation you deserve, including punitive damages, you must consult with and hire a respected Los Angeles accident attorney.
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