Punitive damages are available in car accident lawsuits in New York, but only when the circumstances surrounding the crash are exceptionally bad. Punitive means punish, and these damages are awarded when another party has behaved in a particularly dangerous, reckless, or egregious manner.
The standard of proof for receiving punitive damages is very high. The plaintiff must usually take the case to trial. Further, awarding punitive damages sends a message that the type of behavior engaged in by the defendant is intolerable, and anyone caught doing so will pay a price.
The experienced New York City car accident lawyers at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green can help you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries whether or not punitive damages are available.
In a typical personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff need only show that the defendant acted in a negligent manner in order to recover damages. That may prove sufficient for the plaintiff to receive economic and non-economic damages, the standard damages in civil suits, but it is not enough for punitive damage consideration.
Instead, to recover punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove the defendant acted recklessly, wantonly or intentionally, with conscious indifference and utter disregard of the effect of its actions upon the health, safety and rights of others. Examples are two cars drag racing through a school zone striking children when they lost control of their cars, or a highly intoxicated driver driving down a congested shopping street during the holidays and striking holiday shoppers. In both of these examples, the defendant was likely arrested and charged with a crime. A personal injury lawsuit is heard in civil court and is separate from charges the defendant faces in criminal court.
In addition, if the car accident resulted from a defect in a motor vehicle of which the manufacturer was aware, punitive damages are sometimes levied on the manufacturer or other responsible large corporation to make the company respond to the severity of the problem.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded and are the exception, rather than the norm.
Punitive Damage Amounts
New York does not place a cap on damages, or compensation, awarded to plaintiffs, and that includes punitive damages. There is no actual rule as to the amount. Still, when they are awarded, it is often in the neighborhood of 10 times the amount of economic and non-economic damages. These damages are referred to as compensatory.
Punitive damages are calculated by juries. To arrive at an amount they feel is appropriate to send a message, jurors weigh injury severity, the moral reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions, and how much money is necessary to make the public and the defendant take notice.
Moreover, it is also true that punitive damages are symbolic in many cases. There is no insurance for punitive damages in New York and a significant award that the defendant cannot pay and does not have the assets to cover means little chance of receiving the funds. It’s essential to have a personal injury lawyer advocating for you– as well as advising you.
Contact a New York Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one were seriously and permanently injured because of the recklessness or willfulness of another party in a car accident, there is a possibility you could receive punitive damages. The dedicated New York City personal injury lawyers at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green will review your claim and discuss your options.
Keep in mind that punitive damages are awarded only when the defendant’s behavior is truly reprehensible. Even if you were permanently injured in an accident, that does not mean the collision meets the standard. You can still receive compensation to take care of your future medical and other needs, and we will fight aggressively with the at-fault driver’s insurance company or take the case to court.
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