When you have been injured by another’s careless or reckless acts, your primary concern is likely to be obtaining the maximum amount of compensation as possible from the at-fault individual. These compensatory damages are meant to shift the burden your injuries have caused you – medical bills, time missed from work, pain and suffering, and other “costs” – to the at-fault party. Compensatory damages must be proven, and you are not entitled to compensatory damages that exceed the past and future losses you will experience as a result of the injury accident and the at-fault party’s carelessness.
Defining Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are different. Instead of compensating you for your losses, punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault party for his or her actions. When punitive damages are awarded, the purpose is usually twofold. First, punitive damages act to punish the at-fault party for engaging in actions that are deliberate, intentional, and/or grossly negligent. Second, punitive damages are designed to dissuade the at-fault party and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.
Personal injury victims in North Dakota should also know that punitive damages:
- Are not available in the vast majority of cases: Punitive damages are generally only available where the at-fault party acted deliberately and intentionally in causing harm to you. Moreover, punitive damages are not often available unless the at-fault party’s conduct showed an extreme disregard for your safety or the wellbeing of others.
- Must be requested by the injury victim: Judges and juries will usually only award punitive damages if the injury victim has requested that they be awarded as part of the initial pleadings. Just as the plaintiff must prove all other elements of his or her case (including the amount of compensatory damages), the plaintiff will generally need to show that punitive damages are appropriate.
- Cannot grossly exceed compensatory damages: Gone are the days where an injury plaintiff would receive millions of dollars in punitive damages and only a few hundred or a few thousands of dollars in compensatory damages. Punitive damage awards cannot grossly exceed the amount of compensatory damages awarded, and courts are empowered to amend punitive damages awards that they deem to be excessive under the circumstances.
Does it Pay to Seek Punitive Damages?
There are some situations in which obtaining “full and fair” compensation involves making the at-fault party pay some penalty for engaging in behavior that goes beyond simple careless or reckless acts. Tim O’Keeffe and Tatum O’Brien of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys, your North Dakota personal injury law firm, are here to help you determine whether punitive damages are available in your case. If your case involves an at-fault party who acted intentionally, your North Dakota personal injury lawyers are prepared to seek punitive and compensatory damages on your behalf.
Contact O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys today by calling (701) 235-8000 or (877) 235-8002 and learn about the compensation to which you or your loved one may be entitled.