Punitive Damages in a Phoenix, AZ Car Accident

When you get into a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensatory damages. These reimburse you for your crash-related expenses and provide compensation for your subjective losses like pain and suffering.

Depending on the at-fault driver’s conduct, punitive damages also might be available to you. Punitive damages punish the at-fault motorist when their conduct was particularly harmful or in some way deliberate. An attorney from Phillips Law Group can review your situation and determine whether your case merits a request for punitive damages in a Phoenix, AZ car accident.

Punitive Damages Explained

The intent of compensatory damages like medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering is to replace what an injured person (plaintiff) lost due to someone else’s (defendant’s) conduct. The intent of punitive damages, which are sometimes called exemplary damages, is to punish a defendant for egregious conduct and make an example of them.

Punitive damages are potentially available when a defendant acted with intention to cause harm to someone or understood that their actions had a reasonable likelihood of causing harm to others but proceeded anyway. The plaintiff must prove the defendant’s culpable state of mind — showing carelessness or recklessness is not enough to support a punitive damages award.

Most car accidents are the result of carelessness or recklessness, and punitive damages will not be available in those cases. However, courts sometimes award punitive damages in drunk driving and road rage cases. Truck and bus accident cases also sometimes result in punitive damages awards when a Phoenix, AZ attorney can show that the operator’s intentional failure to adhere to safety standards caused the incident.

Procedure for Claiming Punitive Damages

When an injury lawsuit goes to trial, the plaintiff must file court papers explaining the relief they seek — in other words, the money they believe the defendant should pay them. When a Phoenix, Arizona attorney has evidence that the defendant’s conduct meets the standard for the award of punitive damages, they can ask the court to allow a request for them.

The injured motorist must present clear and convincing evidence showing that the defendant’s conduct was not just negligent but intentional. The intention could be a specific desire to harm them, or an awareness that the conduct was likely to cause harm. The need for “clear and convincing” evidence is a higher standard than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard that governs awards of standard compensatory damages.

Factors That Influence How Much a Jury Could Award

When an injured person requests punitive damages, the judge will direct the jury to consider whether the evidence is sufficient to show the defendant’s evil intent. If so, the jury will decide how much to award in punitive damages. The factors the jury might consider when determining a dollar figure include the depravity of the defendant’s conduct and their net worth.

Although the money is paid to the plaintiff, punishment is the purpose of punitive damages. A Phoenix, Arizona attorney would typically ask a jury to consider the defendant’s financial position and award a sum large enough that the defendant will feel its impact.

Many states cap punitive damages, but Arizona does not. The jury is free to award any amount it decides is appropriate under the circumstances. However, case law limits punitive damages awards to four times the plaintiff’s compensatory damages.

Ask a Phoenix Attorney Whether Punitive Damages Are Available in Your Car Accident Case

Compensatory damages are always available when someone suffers losses in an accident that was not primarily their fault. Situations that merit punitive damages are rarer, but the possibility is always worth exploring.

Contact out firm to talk to a local injury attorney from Phillips Law Group about seeking punitive damages in a Phoenix, AZ car accident case today. You can discuss your situation with a knowledgeable member of our team during a free, no-obligationconsultation and be well on your way to getting justice for the harm done to you. Call now to learn more!