What Do You Mean By Punitive Damages?

What is punitive damages

                              Auto accident cases

Are you wondering how punitive damages are different form the usual compensatory damages? Then read on. You might find this article an interesting read.

So what is punitive damages? As the name implies, punitive damages, sometimes also known as exemplary damages are the punishments that are meted out to an individual held guilty. The main purpose of punishing the individual is to lay an example so as to discourage others from committing similar wrongdoings in the future. For this reason, the amount that is awarded as punitive damages is often much greater than the measurable valuable of the injury caused or the losses incurred. At times punitive damages could also take the form of time in prison.

In the case of auto accidents, punitive damages may be awarded if it can be proved that the defendant was drunk or under the influence of harmful drugs at the time of the accident. Such a person can be charged for committing manslaughter. Such a person need only be proved as being drunk, negligent in following traffic rules or gross disregard to human life and property.

Medical professionals too can be sued for negligence. Indeed more number of such professionals is brought before the court by grieving families than any other person. This is because they feel that hospital deaths could have been prevented if such person had shown concern towards the victim and had acted differently. However, the law, as it stands today, requires medics to prove that they had exercised reasonable care while treating their patients. The law recognizes the difficulty of being in the medical industry and that such professionals would not on purpose cause the death of one of their patients. The court also recognizes the grieving family and gives a chance to both sides to clarify their stand.

The amount that can be awarded as punitive damages will depend on the particulars of each case. If it can be shown that defendant acted with pure malicious intent then enormous amounts can be awarded as compensation. Previous cases of punitive damages will also be huge deciding factor. Also,

Exemplary damages

             Discourage individuals from doing wrong

unlike the compensatory damage considerations, the defendant’s net worth will also be taken into consideration while deciding on the amount to be awarded as punitive damages.

Now you know what is punitive damages. As the amount awarded is way higher than plaintiff’s provable injuries, not all personal injury lawsuits are awarded the punitive damages. The court must have substantial evidence proving that the defendant behaved in a reckless and outrageous manner which is not as easy it seems.

More On Punitive Damages

What is punitive damages

What do you understand by punitive damages

In a lawsuit, generally there will be two parties involved namely, plaintiff and defendant. Plaintiff is the one who files the case or charges in the court against the defendant. If the defendant fails to pay the penalty declared by the court after having been found guilty, the plaintiff has got the option to go ahead with other legal formalities and proceed with the an acquisition order.

What is punitive damages judgment?

If the court announces punitive damages judgment, it means the defendant is required to pay the penalty to the plaintiff. The court declares punitive damages only if the plaintiff succeeds in proving that the defendant was voluntarily intoxicated, reckless, willful or malicious in his actions.

Enforcing the judgment

Let’s consider that you are the defendant. Assume that the plaintiff has obtained a judgment in his favor. If you fail to pay the penalty, the plaintiff can go ahead with judgment enforcement meaning he can take legal steps to force that judgment. This may include wage garnishment, seizure of your bank account and property acquisition, including home foreclosure. But before he can follow up on such a judgment, plaintiff should first file a supplementary proceeding in court. You will receive a notice about this and you have the opportunity to defend against it too.

Execution of the judgment

As per the law, as long as the plaintiff holds the judgment on property, he can try to execute it. State law gives permission to the plaintiff to demand the defendant to appear in court and can make him reveal his assets. Doing this allows the plaintiff to work out a strategy for the acquisition of such the assets. These assets include the defendants’ home too.

Filing bankruptcy

Punitive damages judgment

How to determine punitive damages

But you have one option to defend your property or home from this punitive damages judgment. That is to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy which can help you to stay the judgment. But then there are certain conditions to be met in order for it to stay the judgment. If you were found to be voluntarily intoxicated, reckless, willful or malicious, Chapter 7 bankruptcy won’t hold in favor of you.

Now you have some idea on what is punitive damages judgment. Students of law and indeed, well-established lawyers must keep themselves abreast of the latest judgments that deal with these sorts of damages. Each judgment will enlighten a citizen on how a law can be applied in certain cases.

How Damages Can Be Calculated In An Employment Litigation

what is punitive damages

punitive damages in Employment Litigation

If you find yourself part of an employment litigation lawsuit, whether as the employee or the employer, it’s vital that you have some basic knowledge over the potential “damages” that is being sued for. Armed with such knowledge, like what is punitive damages, you can predict much more accurately as to what the jury will award, and if the case is settled outside the courtroom, the damages that will likely be paid. This can help you plan better.

Calculating the   damages

  • Sum up the wages that was lost, and add to that the other actual losses. The sum that you arrive at is called compensatory damages, and is intended to compensate the employee for any monetary loss that he incurred due to the employer’s behavior. In case the employee had to job hunt for five months after he was let go illegally, then he is entitled to lost wages for the same amount of time.  If he did find a job, but it didn’t pay as well as the one he was illegally fired from, then he can claim the difference in wages over the same period. If the litigation deals not with wrongful termination but the wrongful passing over for a promotion, then he is eligible to receive the difference in wages between what he would have gotten if he had received the promotion, and what he was actually paid.

    damages for pain and suffering

    punitive damages faced by employees

  • Figure out an approximate amount for pain and suffering. The damages for pain and suffering can be availed in cases where the victim had to go through emotional distress due to the illegal actions from the employer’s part. For instance, if the employee underwent harassment at work, or was forced to endure a hostile environment that he couldn’t cope with, the stress and pain that resulted would make him eligible for compensation.
  • Then there are punitive damages. What is punitive damages? They’re damages pursued with the sole purpose of punishing the defendant, and are not always awarded.  The only cases where the punitive damages are awarded are where the employer has acted in a shocking manner. In general, punitive damages cannot go over two to three times the actual compensatory damages.
  • Also add to the above, the legal fees that is owed to the attorney. If the employer has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then he must pay for the employee’s legal fees and court costs as well.

These are just a few “damages” that can be sued for while engaged in an employment-related litigation. Further information can be availed from legal resources online.