When someone is injured and they file a lawsuit, the remedy is most often monetary damages. This monetary award usually comes in the form of compensatory damages, which are meant to reimburse or compensate the victim for any costs associated with the injury they sustained. Typical costs that are reimbursed are medical expenses and property damage. However, in some cases, additional damages are appropriate to punish the person who was at fault. Those types of damages are called punitive damages.
The purpose of punitive damages
Punitive damages are awarded with the intent of punishing the defendant for intentional conduct or conduct that was more than negligent, but instead excessively reckless. For instance, a driver who is traveling 75 mph in a residential area, would be acting recklessly. Another purpose of punitive damages is to deter others, as well as the defendant, from engaging in that type of conduct in the future. So, requiring the reckless driver to pay an additional amount of money for his reckless behavior would likely deter him from doing it again. It would also send a message to others that this type of conduct will cost them severely.
Are Punitive Damages Always Available?
Punitive damages are not always appropriate and, by law, they are not always available to the victim. First, punitive damages are generally only awarded in cases that involve extreme recklessness or intentional conduct. Also, in most cases, a victim will only be awarded punitive damages if they have also been awarded some amount of compensatory damages. This is because the amount of the punitive damages is usually closely associated with the amount of the compensatory damages award. For example, it is common for a punitive damages award to be triple the compensatory damages amount. All of this depends on the facts of the case. If, for instance, the court only orders an injunction of some type, but no compensatory damages, then punitive damages would not likely be ordered.
Are There Limits to Punitive Damages?
Most states impose some sort of limit on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. In fact, many states have passed new laws in an effort to reform punitive damages. The reason for this push for reform is that punitive damages have become routinely requested in civil lawsuits and, when they are awarded, the juries have begun astronomically large amounts. To lawmakers, this progression has distorted the settlement and litigation processes, resulting in very inconsistent outcomes in what should be similar cases.
Punitive Damages in Arkansas
Arkansas’ punitive damages law raised the standard for the type of evidence that must be proven in order to impose punitive damages. The standard is “clear and convincing” evidence of actual fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct and charges. A punitive damages award is limited to the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages, not to exceed $1,000,000.
Punitive Damages in Missouri
Missouri’s punitive damages law provides for a separate court proceeding for the determination of punitive damages. Under this law, the jury must first find the defendant(s) liable for punitive damages. Then a separate proceeding is held to determine the amount, based, in part, on evidence of the defendant’s net worth. Missouri also requires that 50% of all punitive damages be paid into a state fund.
If you or a loved one have suffered a life-altering catastrophic injury in Rogers, contact our legal team at the Cottrell Law Office to receive the compensation you deserve.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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