When you are involved in an accident, the person or company who causes the accident is responsible for compensating you for your injuries.
Most of the different types of monetary compensation available to you after an accident are “compensatory” and/or “economic” damages. These damages are designed to repay you for actual economic losses and for things like pain and suffering. However, there is another type of compensation that you may receive – punitive damages.
Punitive damages are not available for all Illinois personal injury or wrongful death claims. They can be appropriate when the defendant you are making a claim against has done something very wrong.
Punitive damages can significantly increase your recovery, so it is important to understand when you are entitled to these damages and how much you should receive.
An experienced personal injury lawyer from Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help you to determine if punitive damages are appropriate in your case and can help you to get the compensation you deserve. The first step is to schedule a free review of your case by calling us today or simply filling out our online form.
Understanding Punitive Damages
After an Illinois accident, the person responsible for injuries should be made to pay for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress and/or the wrongful death of your loved one. All of these damages are designed to “make you whole,” or repay you for actual losses you suffered.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are designed to punish the defendant. Punitive damages also serve to deter future bad conduct and hold individuals, companies, hospitals and others responsible when their behavior goes well beyond the bounds of what is acceptable in society.
A defendant who causes an accident through simply being a little careless is not going to be required to pay punitive damages. However, a defendant who is extremely reckless with other people’s lives or who does something intentionally wrong is likely going to have to pay punitive damages.
When are Punitive Damages Appropriate?
Illinois explains the concept of punitive damages in Section 35.01 of its civil jury instructions. According to the relevant instructions given to a jury in civil cases, the law says that the jury can award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages if the defendant’s conduct was intentional, willful and wanton, or fraudulent. The wrongful or grossly negligent conduct must also have been the direct cause of some injury to the plaintiff.
The jury instructions tell the jury to consider several factors when awarding punitive damages, including:
- The facts and circumstances of the conduct of the defendant
- How financially vulnerable the plaintiff was
- How long the misconduct went on
- How often the defendant acted badly
- Whether the harm the plaintiff experienced was physical or economic harm
- Whether the defendant tried to conceal the wrongdoing
- The actual and potential harm the defendant’s conduct caused
- The amount of money needed to punish the defendant and deter future wrongs in light of the defendant’s current financial condition
Although the money is intended to punish the defendant, the cash paid by the wrongdoer or grossly negligent defendant still goes to the plaintiff. This means that a plaintiff injured by intentional wrongdoing or gross recklessness can receive a significantly larger damage award than the amount that would be needed to compensate for actual losses.
Obtaining Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are usually obtained in a trial rather than in an out-of-court settlement. This is because a jury decides how much is appropriate to punish the defendant. However, if you are negotiating a resolution to your claim outside of court, you should be sure that the damages award is large enough to provide the amount of punitive damages that you could likely receive in court.
There are no caps on the amount of punitive damages in the state of Illinois. They are available in any situation where a defendant’s actions were intentional or were extremely negligent. This includes car accident cases, defective drug cases, dangerous product claims and slip-and-fall accidents.
A Chicago Injury Lawyer Can Help You to Seek Punitive Damages
If you are entitled to punitive damages, you never want to leave this money on the table. Before you agree to a settlement offer, you should always speak to an attorney to ensure that you have received the full amount of damages you deserve.
Your attorney can help you to assess whether punitive damages would be appropriate in your case and can make sure you are not left with less money than you should receive. Your lawyer can also help you to convince the court that punitive damages are appropriate if your case goes to trial.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we have helped clients to recover substantial punitive damages awards. In more than 260 settlements or verdicts, our clients have obtained a recovery of at least $1 million or more. Combined, we have secured more than $1.5 billion on behalf of our clients.
We can put our legal experience to work to help you get the money you deserve after your accident and injuries. Give us a call or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and get started on your case today.