Walking away from an accident is not the end of trouble, but the beginning. Victims need to pay to see a doctor. They might miss out on work. After evaluating the full extent of the damage, thousands of dollars of bills pile up in a single week.
Many panic under the immense burden and experience crippling emotional distress. They might experience constant unease and nightmares thinking about the injury. Anyone who finds themselves in that position should understand how punitive damages can change an injury case.
What Are Punitive Damages?
There are two kinds of damages in law: Actual damages and punitive damages.
- Actual damages refer to a calculable loss in property or value. Punitive damages are only rewarded after actual damages as a punishment for the defendant.
- Punitive damages help people recover from significant emotional trauma. Many victims use their compensation to seek therapy, take time away from work to recover, and seek medical treatment.
While physical damages might cover the immediate expenses, punitive damages cover the victim’s wellbeing.
How Do You Get Punitive Damages?
Fighting for punitive damages requires two things: a successful claim for actual damages and proof from the accuser. The plaintiff (the victim pursuing damages) and their attorney have the burden of proof. They must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning more likely than not), that the defendant (who caused the suffering) intentionally acted recklessly or dangerously.
In addition to evidence regarding the case, the court may also evaluate the defendant’s criminal record, their truthfulness, and the “reprehensibility of their conduct.”
In the case of car accidents, punitive damages are easier to pursue in at-fault states, like Mississippi. No-fault states make it difficult to pursue additional compensation except in especially damaging circumstances. In any case, it is often difficult for an inexperienced attorney to demonstrate reckless intention.
What Are the Limitations of Punitive Damages?
Mississippi law has strict guidelines and compensatory limits for punitive damages. Compensation has a hard cap in direct correlation to the defendant’s net worth. It’s interesting to note that the language of the law starts at a net worth of $50 million and goes up to $1 billion.
The maximum punitive damages in Mississippi are as follows:
- Net worth of $50 million or less: 2% net worth
- Net worth between $50 million - $100 million: $2.5 million
- Net worth between $100 million - $500 million: $3.75 million
- Net worth between $500 million - $750 million: $5 million
- Net worth between $750 million - $1 billion: $20 million
However, these limitations don’t always apply. If the inciting incident resulted in a felony conviction for the defendant, there are no limitations. Likewise, limitations don’t apply if the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
For those reasons, emotional damages can be lifechanging for those impacted by reckless drivers. Punitive damages can provide crucial support for those who lost a loved one in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver.
Can an Attorney Help Me Get Punitive Damages?
Nobody should pursue their rightful compensation alone. A study by the Insurance Research Council suggests that 85% of people who receive insurance payouts hired an attorney. Moreover, people who hired an attorney received 3.5x more compensation than people who received compensation without an attorney.
Many lawyers struggle to obtain punitive damages. On average, only 5% of punitive claims succeed. Victims should make an effort to find an attorney with a proven track record of obtaining punitive damages.
If you or someone you love experienced pain and suffering after an accident, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced Starkville injury attorney from Vollor Law Firm, P.A. Law Firm to evaluate your claim, please send us an email or call (662) 269-6188.