Courts may award punitive damages when the conduct of a defendant is particularly outrageous. The purpose of a punitive damage award is to deter others from acting in a similar manner. Unlike other damages you may recover, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their actions.
Not all personal injury lawsuits will allow for punitive damages, as this form of compensation is only awarded in certain cases. A good example of a punitive damage case in North Carolina is when a defendant in an automobile accident case pleads guilty to Driving Under the Influence, or when the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident (hit and run). In those cases, the jury can award additional money to the plaintiff as punitive damages for the defendant’s outrageous behavior.
It can be difficult to know whether a case warrants punitive damages. Under North Carolina Law, some of the factors giving rise to punitive damages are: The reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct; the degree of the defendant’s awareness of the probable consequences of the defendant’s own conduct; and the existence and frequency of any similar past conduct by the defendant.
I recently represented two people who were hit from behind by a drunk driver. The at-fault driver pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated. I was able to obtain a copy of the court judgment against him and use it as leverage to obtain a higher settlement amount for my injured clients. A big reason I was able to increase the settlement amount was because of the likely punitive damages against the driver if they case had gone to a trial by jury.
A Personal Injury Attorney can help you determine if your case gives rise to punitive damages. Your attorney will analyze your case and determine if any of the defendant’s conduct is reprehensible in the eyes of the court.
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James Minick is a criminal defense attorney in Asheville, NC and is the owner of Minick Law, P.C.