On behalf of Law Offices of Kathleen G. Alvarado posted in personal injury on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

Like other states, California law allows victims of another’s negligent or reckless conduct to pursue punitive damagesunder certain circumstances.

Basically, punitive damages are a form of compensation that a judge or jury can award to a victim or, as the law requires, to a third party. In contrast to the traditional rule that personal injury cases are designed to compensate victims for what they have actually lost, punitive damages are extra penalties designed to reinforce that what the person who caused the accident was unacceptable. This is why punitive damages are often referred to as exemplary damages.

In California, a victim may be awarded punitive damages in certain very limited circumstances. For instance, a victim may obtain punitive damage when a judge or jury finds the person responsible for the injury caused the injury on purpose or acted in a way that obviously shows that the person did not care about either the well-being or the rights of the victims. Before a court will award punitive damages, the victim has to show by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is entitled to them.

To give an example, a victim will likely not get an award of punitive damages in a situation where another driver simply missed a stop sign and hit the victim’s vehicle, even if it was the other driver’s carelessness that caused the accident.

If the other driver happened to be drunk or travelling double the speed limit when the accident took place, however, an award of punitive damages would be more in the realm of possibility.

Although this post hopefully has helped Riverside residents better understand what punitive damages are, whether a victim is entitled to them in a particular case is really a question best answered by an experienced personal injury attorney.