Punitive Damages

If you are injured in an accident, it is essential to pursue compensation from the at-fault party for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. In some cases, a court or jury will determine that the injured party deserves more than these economic and non-economic damages. They may award punitive damages to the injury victim to punish the at-fault party. 

If you have questions about punitive damages after your injury, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney right away for help. 

Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases 

Damages represent an injury victim’s financial and emotional losses after an accident. There are three main categories of damages in personal injury cases: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. 

Economic damages: These are the most common type of damages. Economic damages compensate injury victims for their financial losses after an accident, such as medical expenses, lost income, and property damage.

Non-economic damages: These damages are generally only available when someone has suffered a permanent or long-lasting serious injury. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate an accident victim for personal, non-monetary losses after an accident. They include things like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. 

Punitive damages: These are the least common form of damages. These damages are meant to punish the responsible party for their conduct rather than compensate the injury victim for their losses. These damages punish a defendant and serve as a deterrent to any future similar conduct. Punitive damages are rare, and you will not get them for a run-of-the-mill accident. The at-fault party’s conduct has to be grossly negligent or shocking to trigger punitive damages. 

How Are Punitive Damages Different Than Other Damages?

The focus of economic and non-economic damages is on the injured party themselves. These damages are meant to put the injured party back to their original position before the injuries occurred. 

Punitive damages focus on the party that caused the accident. When the court wants to make an example out of someone for their outrageous actions, they award heavy punitive damages. Punitive damages are not commonly awarded, but they offer a huge potential recovery in the correct circumstances.

How Do Courts Determine If Punitive Damages Should Be Awarded? 

To be awarded punitive damages for a personal injury case in Missouri, you have to meet a legal threshold set by state law. 

Under Senate Bill 591 in Missouri, you can be awarded punitive damages only if you can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant:

  1. Intentionally harmed you without just cause; or 
  2. Acted in “a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” 

This update to the law of punitive damages went into effect on August 20, 2020. The Senate passed this measure to make it more difficult to pursue punitive damages in a personal injury case.  

Is There a Cap on Punitive Damages in Missouri? 

Caps on punitive damages continue to be debated within the state. Senate Bill 591 added punitive damage caps to employment-related claims. If you have a whistleblower case, then it is important to know that you cannot receive punitive damages under the Missouri Whistleblower Protection Act. 

Previously, the state Supreme Court determined that punitive damage caps in other types of claims are unconstitutional. You must file a motion no later than 120 days before your last pre-trial date or trial date to request punitive damages. After the judge hears the motion, the judge has up to 45 days to make a ruling. 

Having the help and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney can make the difference in your pursuit of punitive damages. If you have questions about the punitive damages you might be entitled to, call us at The Bradley Law Firm so we can help. 

If you have been injured in an accident, you probably have questions about what you should do next. If you are curious about what types of monetary damages you might be entitled to, then contact us for a free consultation. Contact our office today or give us a call at (314) 400-0000 to schedule your consultation with one of our experienced professionals at The Bradley Law Firm.