When accidents happen, the amount paid for damages is classified into actual damages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. Actual damages compensate you for the amount of damages you actually incurred. Typical actual damages generally include lost wages, the costs of medical care, any rental car expenses, and the cost to fix your car. Compensatory damages are less clear than actual damages, and include things like emotional trauma. Punitive damages are a completely different type of damages than actual damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish, or send a message, to the negligent party. The hope is that imposing punitive damages on a person or entitled will act to prevent future incidents.
In Minnesota, the law allows for making a request for payment of punitive damages when you make your complaint. Certain circumstances must exist, and the level of evidence you are required to prove is strict. The statute provides for the following:
- The evidence must be clear and convincing, which is a different standard than just creating a reasonable doubt as to the facts.
- The evidence must clearly demonstrate that the other party acted with a deliberate disregard for the safety of others. This can be difficult to show, and requires proving more than just a mere accident, but a purposeful act.
The amount of a punitive damage award cannot easily be predicted. Some cases see large amounts being given to an aggrieved party, while others are relatively small. And, historical data shows that juries are more likely to make a punitive damage award against a company rather than an individual, and in cases where the harm is largely financial rather than personal. There is no rhyme or reason to why punitive damages award are made the way they are, but perhaps one reason is that juries fear an increase in their own insurance expenses if a company is made to pay out a large sum. Regardless of whether you seek punitive damages, or stick to a request for actual and compensatory damages, a competent personal injury attorney can help you. Contact us for more information about what to expect in your case, and whether you should ask for punitive damages.
If you have been hurt in an accident and have questions about what type of damages you are entitled to, call our office to learn your options. Let an experienced attorney help you figure what is best for you. Call a Bloomington, Minnesota personal injury attorney today.