What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are monetary awards that the court orders the defendants to pay to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits. Louisiana’s laws regarding punitive damages are complex and punitive awards are not typically a result of personal injury cases. However, it is still important to understand how punitive damages work and to have experienced injury law attorneys handling your case to get the compensation you deserve.
Compensatory Damages Are Common
Compensatory damages, also called actual damages, are common types of monetary compensation that the court may award to plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit. They intend to compensate you for any harm sustained in an accident. These could include the loss of money or property due to another person’s actions. This could include injuries from a motor vehicle or slip-and-fall accident or damage to your vehicle from a car accident.
There are two major classifications for compensatory damages:
- Special compensatory damages cover compensation for monetary expenses resulting from an injury, such as current and future medical expenses, loss of current and future wages, and costs associated with fixing damaged property.
- General compensatory damages cover compensation for non-monetary harm resulting from an injury, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium or companionship.
Special compensatory damages are fairly straightforward. They are easy to calculate based on documented facts like medical bills, car repair bills, and pay stubs. It is more difficult to put a value on general compensatory damages, but injury law attorneys recognize acceptable amounts.
Punitive Damages Are Confusing
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are damages that reach beyond what is necessary to compensate the victim. Punitive damages are awarded to the victim/plaintiff in addition to whatever compensatory damages they received. These damages intend to “punish” the defendant. Courts impose these damages if the defendant acted in a willful, reckless, and/or malicious manner.
By punishing the perpetrator monetarily, the courts hope to deter them, and others, from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages also serve a compensatory role by covering damages not usually recoverable like fees for injury law attorneys.
Receiving punitive awards is uncommon, but some factors used to determine punitive damages include:
- How heinous or intolerable the defendant’s actions were.
- Comparisons between similar cases that resulted in punitive awards.
- When compensatory damages seem to be an inadequate remedy.
- The difference between the compensatory award and amount of punitive damages requested.
- The amount that would likely deter the defendant from similar future behavior, based on the individual’s wealth.
Punitive Damages Uncommon In Louisiana
Louisiana law generally does not allow recovery of punitive damages and the state actually has a policy against awarding punitive damages. However, there are exceptions, which specific statutes expressly authorize. Courts do not grant punitive damages based on the amount of damage or harm done to the plaintiff. Instead they grant them based on the seriousness of the actions of the defendant.
Due to the limitations placed on punitive awards, personal injury claims typically do not warrant punitive damages. The most common scenario in which punitive damages may be awarded in a personal injury claim would be a case involving an intoxicated defendant. Because drinking and driving displays a reckless disregard for the safety of others, Louisiana courts sometimes add punitive damages to punish a drunk driver who causes an accident more severely.
In certain circumstances, even if a court did not criminally prosecute the defendant for the crime, other cases may be eligible for punitive damages. These can include cases involving:
- Child Pornography
- Criminal Sexual Activity Towards a Minor
- Domestic Abuse
- Death Caused by Hazing (effective May 25, 2018)
Product liability cases sometimes also qualify for punitive damages, if the injury occurred in Louisiana to a person who resides in Louisiana or when the product was manufactured, produced, or acquired and caused the injury either in Louisiana or in another state to a person who lives in Louisiana.
Hire Top Injury Law Attorneys
If you have suffered injuries in an accident, contact the experienced injury law attorneys at Mike Brandner Injury Attorneys to seek compensation. We offer a free initial consultation and no fee unless we are able to win your case. Our office hours are 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. But, we are available to take your call 24/7 at (504) 345-1111. You also have the option to contact us via our convenient LiveChat. So don’t delay. Reach out and contact us today.
The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.