What Are Punitive Damages?

By the Dennis and King Law Firm In Chattanooga, TN

In some personal injury cases, a jury may award the injured person punitive damages. The judge will instruct the jury to award punitive damages if the jury finds the defendant’s behavior exceptionally malicious or reckless. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the negligent person and to deter future wrongdoing.

Unlike the other type of damages, economic and non-economic, punitive damages are not meant to compensate the injured person for his or her losses even though the injured person receives the damages from the defendant if the jury awards them.

Tennessee and Georgia allow an injured person to sue for punitive damages when the proof indicates the defendant’s behavior is grossly negligent, intentional or reckless.

The injured person must have a good reason and a good evidentiary basis to prove such punitive damages. If there is little to no evidence in support of the injured person’s charge that the defendant displayed “gross” or intentional misconduct, then the injured person or their attorney could face sanctions by the court. The court does this to prevent frivolous lawsuits.

Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and not compensate the injured person for losses caused by the injury. Punitive damages are designed to prevent other people from behaving in the same or a similar reckless way. For example, punitive damages are appropriate in a “road rage” car collision.

Limits on Punitive Damages

Tennessee caps punitive damages at $750,000 dollars. Georgia places no such cap on punitive damages.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of someone’s negligence, such as in a car wreck, you may be entitled to compensation including punitive damages. Because personal injury claims are usually complicated, it is always in your best interest to work with an experienced personal injury attorney in order to maximize compensation.