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Are Punitive Damages the Same As Pain and Suffering?

Are Punitive Damages the Same As Pain and Suffering?

If you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit, you may wonder what types of damages you can seek. After all, when someone else’s intentional or negligent actions cause you harm, you have a right to seek compensation.

Injured accident victims can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. These are known as compensatory damages because they’re meant to make you whole again and compensate you for your losses. Examples of compensatory damages include medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

In some cases, however, accident victims may be awarded punitive damages. These damages punish the at-fault party for their actions and deter others from engaging in similar behavior. Juries typically only award these damages in extreme cases where there was malicious intent, fraud, or extremely reckless behavior.

While punitive and pain and suffering damages can be awarded in a personal injury case, they serve different purposes. Injured accident victims must understand the differences between these types of damages because they will have a significant impact on their case.

Understanding Punitive Damages in California

Punitive damages are a form of damages awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to punish the defendant for their behavior and deter similar conduct in the future. While rare, these types of damages are often awarded in cases where the defendant acted with a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others or with intent to harm.

Some examples of personal injury cases where punitive damages may be awarded include:

  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Product liability accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Sexual assault or abuse
  • Assault and battery
  • Negligent security
  • Environmental toxins and poisoning
  • Dog bites

California Civil Code 3294 allows a trial court jury to award punitive damages in a personal injury case. However, there is no set formula for calculating punitive damages in California. Instead, the jury will consider factors such as the defendant’s wealth and the severity of their misconduct. There are also no limits on the amount of punitive damages a California court can award in a personal injury lawsuit. However, federal law does state that the amount awarded should not be grossly excessive.

When a jury is deciding whether to award punitive damages in a personal injury case, they have to think about how bad the defendant’s behavior was and how much money would make the defendant think twice about doing it again.

What are Pain and Suffering Damages?

When you suffer an injury in an accident, you can seek compensation for the pain and suffering you endured because of your accident.

Unlike economic damages, pain and suffering are not easy to quantify, and calculating these damages is difficult. There is no set formula or receipts you can gather, and they can vary widely depending on the circumstances of the case.

After all, how can you put a price on how much pain you felt or how drastically your life changed after your accident?

Factors that can affect the amount of pain and suffering damages awarded include:

  • The severity of the injury
  • The length of the recovery period
  • The impact of the injury on your daily life
  • How the injury emotionally impacts your life

In California, there are limits on the amount of pain and suffering damages that can be awarded in certain types of cases. For example, there is a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases. However, there are no caps on pain and suffering damages in other personal injury cases.

How Do You Win Punitive Damages?

To win punitive damages in a personal injury case, your legal team must build a compelling case to show why the defendant must be punished for their behavior. Perhaps an auto manufacturer put profits over the safety of consumers? Maybe a drunk driver drove through San Bernardino with a blood alcohol content of 3x, the legal limit in a school zone?

In general, there are three elements you and your personal injury lawyer must prove to win punitive damages:

  • The defendant engaged in conduct that was intentional, reckless, or malicious.
  • The defendant’s conduct caused harm to the plaintiff.
  • The defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the harm.

If you can prove these elements, the court may award punitive damages as a way of punishing the defendant for their behavior and deterring similar conduct in the future.

Winning punitive damages can be difficult and requires a high level of proof. Because of this, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether punitive damages are a viable option in your case.

Contact a San Bernardino Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love is injured in an accident, you need a law firm on your side that can get you the compensation you deserve. We know that insurance companies aren’t looking out for you and your future. That’s why you need us. We will fight for you throughout the legal process, so you can obtain the money you need to put your life back together again.

Call a San Bernardino personal injury lawyer today at William D. Shapiro Law, Inc. to get the help you need to move forward. Call (909) 890-1000 or complete our confidential contact form today.

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