Do You Believe You Deserve Punitive Damages for Your Car Accident Case in California?
Not all car accident cases include grounds for filing punitive damages but some do. If yours does, do you know how to request them? Do you know how to find a personal injury attorney who has experience with these particular types of cases? Keep reading for the answers to these and other issues. Then contact Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707 for a free legal consultation.
Punitive Damages Must Be Asked For
The process of getting punitive damages can be complex. These are damages that must be specifically asked for, yet you cannot ask for a specific amount. They are often determined in the same proceeding in which the defendant’s liability is determined. In other instances, the defendant might find that punitive damages are “bifurcated,” which simply means be tried separately.
If the trial ends up bifurcated, then the jury will not hear evidence of the financial situation until the plaintiff wins the case and the jury determines that the defendant is guilty of fraud, oppression, or malice. Only at that point will the jury hear about financial aspects to decide how much to award for punitive damages. This is supposed to help prevent the jury from assigning huge personal injury awards just because a person is wealthy.
Juries Will Consider a Number of Factors When Determining Punitive Damages
There is not a fixed, specific standard for determining the amount of punitive damages a jury should award. They will consider how bad the actions of the defendant were, how serious the injury was, and how much money would be required to actually punish the defendant and discourage them from taking similar future action. Remember that the point of punitive damages is just that: To punish the guilty party, and the jurors are supposed to figure out what that would take.
There is No Cap on Punitive Damages in California
Some states, like Nevada, have caps on punitive damages. This is not the case with California. That said, there is a clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that prohibits “grossly excessive or arbitrary punishments.” The United States Supreme Court has said that punitive damages must have a reasonable relationship to the damages awarded to the plaintiff.
While the Supreme Court has not indicated a specific award that is too high, they have said that awards exceeding single-digit ratios are generally not acceptable. This means if a person receives $100,000 for their economic and non-economic damages, it is unlikely that a judge will approve punitive damages for $5,000,000.
If you have questions about how punitive damages work, or if they are appropriate for your case, contact Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707 for a free legal consultation.