February 6, 2024
Can I Receive Punitive Damages in My Personal Injury Case?
By Jonathan Damashek
If you suffered from an injury in New York, you likely have many questions about the costs of your recovery and how much compensation you could receive. While a successful settlement should bring you total compensation, in rare cases, you could be awarded punitive damages on top of your other losses.
Learn more about punitive damages and when they might apply to a personal injury case. For more precise help on your case, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Hecht, Kleeger, & Damashek, P.C. for a free consultation.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are extra costs that a defendant may be ordered to pay after harming someone else. These damages are reserved for extreme cases where a defendant displayed severe misconduct contributing to the victim’s accident and injuries. Punitive damages are meant to “punish” a defendant for wrongful behavior and deter others from committing a similar offense.
Punitive vs. Compensatory Damages
The compensation you receive after an accident in New York is comprised of compensatory damages. Also known as actual damages, these are meant to make an injured victim “whole” again. There are two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.
Punitive damages are an “add-on” to a victim’s compensatory damages. These damages are meant to penalize a wrongdoer and make an example out of them – not necessarily help the victim. However, victims typically receive punitive damages by the court’s order.
When Do Punitive Damages Apply to a Personal Injury Case?
Punitive damages are only available if a case goes to trial – personal injury claims settled outside of court are not eligible for these damages. Additionally, exemplary damages only apply to cases where a defendant’s actions exceed negligence. They must have done something considerably wrong.
To receive punitive damages, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant displayed willful or wanton misconduct or a high degree of moral turpitude.
Examples of Extreme Misconduct
“Willful or wanton misconduct” describes the blatant and intentional disregard for other people’s safety, such as a doctor performing surgery while severely intoxicated. A high degree of moral turpitude involves any action that violates societal standards and laws, such as rape, kidnapping, fraud, and murder.
In situations where a party behaved in an extremely wrongful manner and contributed to your personal injury accident, your attorney can help present your case effectively and make a compelling argument for punitive damages. However, it is ultimately up to the courts to decide whether or not to award these damages.
Is There a Limit on Punitive Damages in New York?
New York does not cap the compensation you can receive in punitive damages after you’ve been injured in an accident. Ultimately, it is up to the court’s discretion whether or not to order a defendant to pay punitive damages and how much, if so.
Recovering Punitive Damages in New York
The process of recovering punitive damages in New York can be incredibly challenging and requires a personal injury lawyer’s careful guidance and insight. Your attorney must be knowledgeable, aggressive, and experienced in trial to better your chances of being awarded punitive damages.
The Important Role of a Personal Injury Attorney
At HKD, our lawyers will be a valuable resource throughout the process of your personal injury case. We can determine whether or not your case meets the criteria for you to recover punitive damages. If it does, our team will work diligently to fight for exemplary damages to be awarded. We will gather critical evidence, discovery, expert and witness testimony, and more.
You deserve an aggressive advocate to fight for your best interests and prepare you for trial. Our experienced lawyers are here to help, just like we have for countless other clients.
You Will Need Clear and Convincing Evidence
Even in cases where misconduct seems glaringly obvious, you must prove through clear and convincing evidence the defendant exhibited gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing, and that their actions directly caused your personal injury accident. We will collect all available evidence, gather information about the defendant, and consult with outside resources to build a case that we confidently feel will meet the high threshold of punitive damages.
The Jury Decides on Exemplary Damages
The judge and jury will calculate punitive damages using a subjective assessment of the defendant’s behavior, its severity, the extent of your injuries, the value of your compensatory damages, and more. If they decide to rule in your favor, you will need to take steps to enforce their judgment, such as seizing assets or income from the defendant.
If The Defendant Appeals
If the jury rules favorably in your case, the defendant may file a motion to appeal their decision. An appellate court will review the case, but this process is typically lengthy and complex. At HKD, our attorneys have decades of experience navigating the appellate process for personal injury victims and helping clients secure rightful compensation no matter what.
Contact an NYC Personal Injury Attorney at HKD Today
If you were seriously injured because of someone’s intentional wrongdoing or extremely reckless behavior, you deserve to hold them accountable for their role in your personal injury accident. At Hecht, Kleeger, & Damashek, P.C., our experienced trial lawyers have built many successful cases for punitive damages, and we will fight tirelessly in court to do the same for you.
Protect others from the harm you experienced and make an example out of a wrongdoer’s immorality. Contact an NYC personal injury lawyer at HKD to get started on your case for punitive damages when you call (212) 490-5700.