Understanding Punitive Damages

When an injured person sues a negligent party that has caused their injury, they are typically seeking compensation for their losses. The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to make the injured party whole again. Any verdict or settlement in a personal injury case is made to compensate the injured individual for what they have lost and not necessarily to punish the negligent party for any wrongdoing. Punitive damages are awarded with the intent to punish a negligent party for egregious conduct.


What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are payments for economic and noneconomic losses. Economic losses include things like medical bills and lost wages, which are tangible losses that a party has suffered as a result of their injury. Noneconomic losses include pain and suffering, and emotional distress, things that are more subjective. A plaintiff in a personal injury suit is entitled to compensatory damages.


What Are Punitive Damages?

In some cases, damages are awarded that are not compensation for losses but are a means of punishing a defendant for their actions. These damages are called punitive damages. Punitive damages are not awarded in typical cases. Punitive damages are awarded in order to punish a wrongdoer for egregious conduct and to make an example out of them for others to deter similar actions.

In order to prove the need for punitive damages in New York, it must be demonstrated that the defendant acted with complete disregard for the health and safety of others. Simply being careless or negligent is not enough for an award of punitive damages. There must be evidence of willful and wanton negligence. This is a difficult standard to meet, which is why punitive damages are not typically awarded.

If you are awarded punitive damages, it will be in addition to any compensatory damages. In some cases, the value of the punitive damages can exceed the amount of compensatory damages. There is no bright-line rule for how these damages will be calculated. A jury will way the seriousness of the damages, the egregiousness of the conduct, and how much money it would take to send a clear message.


Contact a New York Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve been injured as the result of someone’s negligence, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping negligence victims. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.