What Are Punitive Damages, and How Are They Different?

  • If you’ve been injured in an accident and you know someone else was at fault, you may file a personal injury lawsuit. When filing a personal injury claim, you must prove negligence against the liable party to recover compensation for any damages you’ve suffered. The damages you’ll recover are compensatory damages. You may also discuss punitive damages in your case.

    Punitive damages are damages reserved for accidents caused by gross negligence. At Justice for Colorado, our lawyers are familiar with gross negligence and can identify when a defendant has behaved unacceptably. If your Denver personal injury lawyer believes you deserve punitive damages, then they can suggest the award to the judge, hoping the judge will make the final call. 

    Identifying Negligence

    Ordinary negligence occurs in many ways and varies depending on the accident you were involved in.

    If you’re injured in a car accident in Denver, for example, a negligent driver may have caused the accident because they were speeding, texting behind the wheel, driving while intoxicated, or improperly changing lanes. If you’re injured by a defective product, a negligent manufacturer may be liable because they didn’t properly test the product before selling it.

    You can recover compensation for your economic and non-economic damages if you can prove liability for your injuries. These damages may include your medical expenses, property damages, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more. 

    When Negligence Becomes Blatant or Reckless

    Ordinary negligence becomes gross negligence when the liable party’s actions are wanton, reckless, or blatant. For example, if a drunk driver injures someone on the road and it’s their third DUI offense, then the court is no longer likely to see their actions as a mistake. Alternatively, if a doctor injures a patient and the injury seems purposeful or malicious, then it’s possible that the doctor was grossly negligent.

    Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages

    In cases where the defendant is grossly negligent, it’s possible to receive punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. The judge is the only one who can award punitive damages. The judge uses these damages to punish the defendant and make an example of them for their behavior. Although judges rarely awards punitive damages, they are necessary in special cases.

    Reach Out to a Denver Personal Injury Attorney

    If you believe you deserve punitive damages, then it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney and try to prove gross negligence in court.

    Although it’s up to the judge to award punitive damages, your lawyer can make a strong argument on your behalf. You deserve compensation for your financial and nonfinancial losses, and the defendant deserves additional punishment for their excessively careless behavior.

    If you’re ready to discuss your case in greater detail with a Denver personal injury lawyer from Justice for Colorado, call 303-647-9691 to schedule a free consultation, or visit our website for more information.