A punitive damage award is appropriate in cases where the defendant's conduct was intentional or beyond mere negligence. Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and are regulated by both federal and state law. The Supreme Court has determined that punitive damage awards cannot exceed a single digit multiplier of the other damage award in a particular case. Thus, a plaintiff who receives damages of one thousand dollars can receive up to nine thousand dollars in punitive damages (nine is the largest single digit multiplier).
Rear End Collisions
Rear end collisions often occur as a result of a sudden slow down in traffic or when a driver is not paying attention or is momentarily distracted from the traffic in front of him. The sudden impact can cause severe damage to both vehicles and can also cause bodily injury such as whiplash. The driver who is in the rear and hits a car that has slowed or stopped in front of him is almost always at fault in rear end collision cases.
Punitive Damages in Your Case
Punitive damages may be available in your rear end collision case depending on the circumstances. State law will also dictate whether punitive damages are allowed. Some of the situations which may give rise to punitive damage awards may include:
- Malicious or intentional actions of the defendant that result in injury to the plaintiff and/or other damages.
- Gross negligence of a defendant such as voluntary intoxication prior to getting behind the wheel which results in an accident and injury to the plaintiff.
Generally, the question of punitive damages is left to a jury. In some cases, the plaintiff receives a huge verdict depending on the actions of the defendant. It will also depend on the amount of compensatory damages awarded which can include pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and out of pocket expenses.
Getting Legal Advice
If you were involved in an auto accident and you have questions about the various types of damages to which you may be entitled, it is best to talk about your concerns with an experienced accident attorney who handles similar cases in your jurisdiction. State law will likely govern your case; however, some federal law may also be applicable. An attorney will be able to assess your facts and the law in your case and give you helpful advice.