Punitive damages defined

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2015 | Wrongful Death |

Every year across the state of Georgia and the entire country, countless people lose their lives in preventable accidents. A large number of fatal accident incidents are the result of unintentional negligence, but many others can be attributed to reckless conduct and/or malicious intent. In such cases, eligible representatives for wrongful death accident victims often have the grounds to pursue punitive damages from liable parties.

Discussing the two most common types of damages awarded in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, the Cornell University Law School website explains that compensatory damages account for real financial losses sustained by accident injury victims and their families. Financial hardships attributed to serious or fatal injuries may include everything from lost wages to medical expenses. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are largely intended to serve another purpose.

The 2011 edition of the Punitive Damages Review provides a general overview of punitive damages, and notes that they are typically awarded in cases where the defendant is found to have acted recklessly or maliciously. Beyond that, punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in that they serve as a form of punishment for the defendant.

Achieving a punitive damages award depends upon a number of different factors than compensatory damages. While compensatory damages are typically awarded in cases where the plaintiff shows that he or she sustained injuries as a result of the defendant’s negligence, proving punitive damages involves the plaintiff illustrating that the defendant’s conduct was intentionally or otherwise particularly reckless in nature. Effectively showing that the defendant exhibited outrageous or malicious conduct often involves the plaintiff presenting evidence against the liable party.

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