Punitive, or exemplary, damages are assigned by a judge or jury to punish a defendant for especially egregious or heinous actions. Exemplary damages are typically difficult to recover, but they may be useful as a deterrent to future negligent or reckless behavior by making the defendant an example.
Generally, this type of damages award is available if a plaintiff and his or her attorney are able to prove at trial that the defendant acted with intentional malice. The other way to establish eligibility for punitive damages is by showing that the action of the other driver amounted to the willful and wanton disregard of their rights. You may be able to recover punitive damages in your Charlottesville car accident case by working with an experienced auto wreck attorney who is familiar with handling such claims.
It is not very common for juries to award punitive damages in auto wreck cases. This is partially due to the fact that most claims are settled before they get to court. Additionally, in many cases that are settled out of court, there is a confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement preventing the case and the details from being made public.
The court generally awards punitive damages in vehicle collisions cases if the negligent driver was willfully reckless or acted with wanton disregard for the other person’s safety. The severity of injuries that are involved also impacts punitive damage awards.
If the plaintiff suffered a minor injury, there may not be a large exemplary damages award. However, if the accident victim will be affected by the injury permanently or the medical condition requires surgery and significant recovery time, the damages may be accordingly higher. When an accident results in death, the punitive damages are typically much more significant.
There is no set way to calculate punitive damages after a severe vehicle collision in Charlottesville. However, the United States Supreme Court has stated that the ratio of exemplary to compensatory damages could be as high as ten to one. Regardless of the ratio the jury uses to calculate the amount of money owed, the punitive damages award cannot exceed the state-mandated cap.
In Virginia, the punitive damages cap is $350,000. This applies to individuals and corporations, regardless of the severity of the defendant’s actions. If you have questions about how this limit applies to your case, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer.
The most common cases in which punitive damages are available are drunk driving cases. Under Virginia law, a plaintiff may obtain an exemplary damages award if he or she demonstrates that the drunk driver acted willfully and wantonly or had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher at the time of the accident.
If the negligent motorist has prior DUI convictions, a jury might award much higher punitive damages than if it was the first time. However, it still cannot exceed the $350,000 limit.
In addition to the actions of the defendant driver to determine punitive damages, the jury can also determine what that person’s assets and wealth are in determining the amount to award punitive damages to punish the punitive driver. This could send a clear message to the larger community that drunk driving has financial consequences in addition to the injuries it caused.
One of the biggest ways that a Charlottesville car accident attorney could help you secure exemplary damages is by aggressively negotiating with the insurance companies. If necessary, The Warren Firm could stand by your side in court to get you the money you deserve and secure punitive damages in your Charlottesville car accident case to exact justice from the reckless driver. Call right away to schedule a consultation for your case.