Avoiding Legal Trouble

Why Punitive Damages Are Tied To Compensatory Damages

If you are injured because you used a product that was defective, you might be entitled to both compensatory damages and punitive damages. This is usually the case if you suffer damages as a result of gross negligence on the part of the product manufacturer and the judge wants to punish the manufacturer for that negligence. However, the judge is limited in how high the punitive damages can be due to the 14th Amendment.

How Punitive Damages Are Related to Compensatory Damages

Because of the "due process" clause of the 14th Amendment, a judge is required to make sure that the punitive damages they aware have a reasonable relationship to the compensatory damages. If the punitive damages are higher than four times the compensatory damages, the punitive damages might be considered unconstitutional. However, some states have ruled in the past that punitive damages can be higher under some circumstances. 

How to Receive Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are rare. However, you are more likely to receive punitive damages if you are taking action against a business than if you are taking action against a different party, such as a driver who struck you. Businesses have more resources at their disposal and the courts often want to punish the act of injuring customers in pursuit of profits.

To be able to receive punitive damages, you will need to prove that the other party was willful or reckless. For example, you might discover that the defendant was aware of the fact that the product was dangerous and chose to sell it anyway. They may have decided that paying for lawsuits would be less expensive than making the product safer. Therefore, the judge may wish to punish the product manufacturer to discourage such behavior.

The defendant might argue that they made a simple mistake and did not know that their product was defective, so you will want to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can gather evidence to prove that the defendant was willfully negligent.

How to Calculate Damages

The fact that the damages you receive must be proportionate with your compensatory damage is another reason why you need help from a personal injury lawyer to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. You may be more injured than you realize and you may need compensation for expected future medical expenses so you can maximize your settlement.

Contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more.