If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a case for compensation for a variety of damages related to the personal impact of the injuries on your life. For example, after a car accident, you can pursue compensation for economic damages, including your medical expenses, property damage, and lost income or earning capacity, as well as non-economic damages for your pain and suffering. Some cases may also involve punitive damages, and you may wonder whether this is a possibility to increase your compensation.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are not determined according to the victim’s losses, but according to the court’s desire to punish the negligent party in hopes of preventing similar behavior in the future. In this way, they are somewhat similar to fines ordered as part of a criminal sentence, except that they are paid to the victim.
Under Wisconsin law, punitive damages are only awarded in cases of malicious acts or intentional disregard of the victim’s rights. Outside of the context of a car accident, examples may include cases of assault or violent attacks in which the victim suffers injuries. In the case of a car crash, a simple driver error is not sufficient to justify punitive damages. However, intentionally injuring someone with a vehicle, or acting extremely recklessly, perhaps by street racing or driving while severely intoxicated, could be sufficient justification.
Awarding Punitive Damages
Pursuing punitive damages requires that you have strong evidence of the actions of the at-fault party. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after you are injured gives you the best chance of collecting that evidence and using it to build a robust case that could convince a judge or jury.
Punitive damages are rarely covered by insurance policies and are normally paid personally by the at fault driver. However, the mere threat of the pursuit of a punitive damage claim against the insured at fault driver will often be used as leverage to convince the insurance company to pay a higher settlement amount. If you do choose to take your case to trial, the trial judge will determine whether a jury should have the opportunity to award punitive damages, based upon the evidence presented. In many Wisconsin personal injury cases, the possible amount of punitive damages is limited to $200,000 or double the amount of the economic and non-economic damages, but this limit does not apply in cases involving drunk drivers.
Contact an Appleton, WI Personal Injury Attorney
At the Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd., we strive to pursue the most possible compensation for our clients, and we can advise you as to whether punitive damages may be a possibility in your case. Contact an experienced Green Bay personal injury lawyer for a free consultation at 920-739-7366.