When filing a personal injury lawsuit, the claimant (or party injured) must prove that the defendant (or guilty party) has been negligent in some way. After collecting evidence and gaining the testimony of an expert witness or two, the claimant should be able to establish guilt. If the negligent act was especially egregious, the claimant may seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
Punitive damages are a type of compensation that is awarded to a claimant in order to punish the defendant for their behavior. In most cases where the claimant seeks this type of compensation, the defendant is a corporation or business. Rarely do claimants seek punitive damages from another individual.
While punitive damages are rarely awarded, there have been a number of cases in which an individual has received a large amount of money from the defendant. In most scenarios, the claimant was injured by a corporation that has harmed people in the past, but failed to fix the problem.
For example, if a corporation is emitting large quantities of pollution that is causing lung problems for nearby residents, it may cost the corporation more money to reduce their emissions than to settle with residents. In order to provide an incentive for the corporation to actually address the issue, a court may decide that they should be punished for their negligence by having to pay the claimant a substantial amount of money-not just compensation for their losses.
Punitive damages are slightly controversial, as opponents argue that it awards one individual excessively, while other injured civilians may only receive minimal compensation. Additionally, costing the defendant millions of dollars does not do the public any good because it all falls into the hands of one individual. Critics of punitive damages claim that it is not a just, fair or effective solution to the problem.
Compensatory damages, on the other hand, are awarded in most personal injury cases. This form of compensation covers all losses incurred by the claimant because of the accident. These losses can include: medical expenses (both present and future), lost wages (both present and future), lost profits, property damage, pain and suffering, damaged reputation, loss of friends, etc. The purpose of compensatory damages is to put the claimant back in the same position he or she was in prior to the injury.
For more information on filing a personal injury claim, contact the Oklahoma experts at the Abel Law Firm today.