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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What are Punitive Damages?

In personal injury cases, if the person causing the injury (which is usually in a car accident) is drunk, on drugs, or intentionally inflicting harm, the injured person may be able to collect punitive damages. Punitive damages differ from ordinary damages. Ordinary damages are there to make the injured person whole which may include pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages in a personal injury claim. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and to discourage similar reprehensible behavior.

Because punitive damages seek to punish the wrongdoer, the injured party must prove that the wrongdoer acted with more than just ordinary negligence. To recover punitive damages, the injured party must prove that the wrongdoer was grossly negligent and acted with oppression, fraud, or malice. Some examples of cases where punitive damages are available are if the defendant intentionally causes harm or was reckless by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This type of behavior is beyond the simple ordinary negligence standard and is usually enough to warrant punitive damages.

An award of punitive damages depends upon the severity of the conduct by the defendant and the harm you suffered. The Supreme Court has held that excessive punitive damages are unconstitutional but has not set an exact limit on what is considered “excessive.” Practically speaking, a ratio greater than 3:1 of punitive to actual damages would likely be considered excessive.

While some states require that punitive damages be paid into a victims’ compensation fund, punitive damage awards in Kentucky do not require that. However, receiving punitive damages in a case does have tax consequences. Although actual damages are not taxable as income because they replace what has been lost, punitive damages are taxable because they go beyond simply making the victim whole.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a drunk driver or other negligent action by another, call Bowling Green personal injury attorney Flora Templeton Stuart at (888) 782-9090 for a free case evaluation. Flora and her staff have decades of experience helping clients injured due to car wrecks, semi accidents, slip and fall accidents, motorcycle wrecks, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, catastrophic injuries and all other personal injuries. If you have been injured, attorney Flora Templeton Stuart will help you recover all the available damages you are entitled to, including punitive damages, when applicable.

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