Everything You Need to Know About Punitive Damages in California Personal Injury Cases

If you have been injured in an accident that was partially or entirely the fault of someone else, then you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages related to medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. In very rare cases, a jury may even award punitive damages. Keep reading to discover what punitive damages are and whether or not you are likely to be eligible for them. Then contact Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707 for a free legal consultation.

The definition of punitive damages

Put simply, punitive damages are awarded when the defendant acted so egregiously that the jury and / or judge want to further financially punish them in an effort to prevent the behavior in the future. The California Civil Code states that punitive damages are “for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.” It further states that there must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed fraud, had malice, or was guilty of oppression.

Note that in these cases, oppression is defined as acting in a way that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardships, fraud means intentionally misrepresenting or deceiving someone, and malice refers to acting in a way that is specifically intended to hurt a person or with willful disregard for the safety and / or rights of another person.

There are several ways in which punitive damages can be used

Punitive damages are sometimes issued in personal injury lawsuits, but they can be issued in other situations too. For example, in certain intentional torts like assault and battery, sexual assault, or severe abuse claims. They may also be awarded on business torts if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant intentionally defrauded them. In the world of personal injury claims, an example would be awarding punitive damages in a fatal car accident caused by a driver who was drunk at the time of the accident.

You won’t necessarily get all of the awarded punitive damages

Remember that when a jury awards punitive damages, it does not necessarily mean that you will receive that amount in its entirety. There are often caps on punitive damages in various states, and though California does not have an official cap, most courts follow how the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, which is to cap damages about nine times the economic and non-economic damages combined.

Let an attorney help you discover what you may be eligible for

If you have been the victim of an accident in which a person acted recklessly or purposely injured you then you may have grounds for a personal injury case and it may end up including punitive damages. The best way to find out for sure is to contact Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707. We are here to offer a free consultation during which we can offer you our best advice on your specific situation.