When Can Personal Injury Lawyers Seek Punitive Damages?

Unlike compensation for the victim of a personal injury, the value of punitive damages reflects the nature of the defendant’s actions. Behavior that has exceeded the carelessness and neglect that has been linked to traditional negligence is called gross negligence. Defendants charged with gross negligence could be required to pay punitive damages, as per personal injury lawyer in San Clemente.  

Different states require the exhibition of different actions, before viewing any behavior as an example of gross negligence. 

In some states a defendant must have carried out an act of intentional misconduct, in order to be charged with gross negligence, and hit with punitive damages.In certain other states, a defendant must be charged with recklessness, malice or deceit, before the victim’s personal injury lawyer has the right to request punitive damages. 

In all states, the court will honor such a request, if the plaintiff’s lawyer has produced proof of gross negligence.  

Could a lawyer introduce a charge of grossly negligent behavior during an earlier part of the claims process?

Yes, personal injury lawyers do have the right to present allegations of such behavior during settlement negotiations. That could push the defense team to agree to an increase in the size of the settlement.  

Still, no amount of money would get added as a way to punish the defendant. Moreover, the term “gross negligence” would not appear in the settlement agreement.  

Is there any time when a personal injury attorney might ask the court to cancel a request for punitive damages?

Yes, an attorney might make that request if his/her client did not want to pay taxes on that addition to the money that the court was ready to award the plaintiff/client. Usually, if an attorney were to ask for such a removal, then he or she would try to add to the other damages. 

Why would a lawyer seek the removal of the punitive damages, but then try to arrange for the addition of other damages? The court would want to have the defendant saddled with an appropriate payment. The addition of other damages might allow for maintenance of the size of the defendant’s payment to the victim/plaintiff. 

What could happen if a court were to feel that a lawyer had insufficient basis for his/her desire to label a defendant’s behavior as a grossly negligent?

In such a situation, the court would have a right to fine the same lawyer. That is how the legal system monitors the number of times that any defendant might be forced to handle the consequences from acting in a manner that has gone beyond simple negligence. Defendants should not carry an extra burden, simply because a personal injury lawyer would like to increase the amount of money that gets awarded to the client.

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