To Eliminate Or Not To Eliminate Punitive Damages

What is punitive damages

Civil lawsuits and punitive damages

What is punitive damages? A very often asked question, these are monetary damages awarded to punish the defendant and to deter others from committing the same wrong in the future. Besides the actual damages, these damages are generally awarded to benefit the society as a whole. These exemplary damages are generally awarded in a civil lawsuit and have been awarded since the 1970’s.

What kind of conduct leads to punitive damages?

Punitive damages are considered as an instrument to convey a message to the defendant and the society to deter such similar wrongs in the future. However, punitive damages become a major controversy in civil and product liability cases. The wrongdoing for which the defendant is awarded punitive damages varies, as there is no definitive definition for these damages. The accused may be ordered to pay punitive damages if he causes the injury intentionally and knowingly with malicious intent. These damages are usually awarded when the conduct can be regarded as fraudulent, reckless, oppressive, malicious or violent in nature. Generally, these non-compensatory damages are awarded only after awarding the compensatory damages.

Why are punitive damages unique in civil law?

While considering criminal law and civil law, there are quite a few differences to distinguish the two. The reason why punitive damages become controversial in civil law is that they are similar to the damages that are granted in a criminal case even though they are awarded in civil law. The awards that are granted in civil lawsuits are generally compensatory in nature. However, punitive damages being non-compensatory in nature are what make them similar to the damages that are awarded in a criminal case. For this reason, punitive damages are often termed as ‘quasi-criminal.’

Non-Compensatory Damages

Punitive damages explained

Eliminate the punitive damages or not?

When it comes to punitive damages, there are both supporters as well as critics to this legal principle. While the supporters are of the opinion that when it is not possible to calculate the actual losses suffered by the plaintiff tangibly, then punitive damages serve as a sufficient compensation. On the other hand, critics believe that these punishments are criminal in nature and that it cannot be considered reasonable in today’s modern society. They are of the opinion that it is not fair to enforce it on defendants, as they do not have protection under criminal court proceedings.

For more info on what is punitive damages and the laws regarding the same, refer online legal resources. Alternatively, you can go down to your local library and check out their law section.