What Are Punitive Damages in a New York Personal Injury Claim?

What Are Punitive Damages in a New York Personal Injury Claim?

What Are Punitive Damages in a New York Personal Injury Claim?

Accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. You can do everything right and still have something wrong. Fortunately, if you are the victim of someone else’s negligence, legal recourse is available. In the state of New York, you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim against the person responsible for your accident. All successful New York personal injury cases will pay the victim some compensatory damages. Particularly egregious cases, however, may also entitle you to punitive damages.

Personal Injury Claims as Civil Cases

Because personal injury claims are civil cases, the courts are generally not too interested in meting out punishment to the defendants. On the contrary, civil courts are typically primarily concerned with compensating victims for their losses. However, defendants that have been What Are Punitive Damages in a New York Personal Injury Claim?extraordinarily careless or reckless may need to pay punitive as well as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages compensate the victim for any endured injuries. Punitive damages, on the other hand, exist specifically to punish the defendant.

Understanding Compensatory Damages

As we have already established, civil courts generally aim to compensate victims for their losses. Losses can be both economic and non-economic. “Economic losses” refers to things like medical expenses and lost wages. “Non-economic losses” refers to things like pain and suffering and emotional distress. Any compensation for these losses is compensatory damages. Compensatory damages restore what the victim has lost. 

Understanding Punitive Damages

Because personal injury claims are a matter of civil litigation, the courts cannot punish defendants with jail time or criminal fines. Thus, punitive damages are the only “real” option to punish any outrageous wrongdoings in a personal injury case. Not every victim will be entitled to punitive damages. They are relatively rare, but the additional compensation can be substantial. It is not uncommon for punitive damages to exceed compensatory damages. Consult with your attorney to better understand your chances of being awarded punitive damages.

Determining Punitive Damages

In some cases, the courts will award punitive damages according to specific statutes. In general, however, punitive damages are determined on a case-by-case basis. As mentioned earlier, the courts will only award punitive damages in cases of extreme, egregious, or immoral conduct. Examples of such behavior may include:

  • Causing serious bodily injury or death while driving under the influence
  • Causing serious bodily injury or death while driving at excessive speeds
  • When the defendant has committed a serious crime

The exact amount of punitive damages depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • How egregiously the defendant acted
  • The severity of the damages
  • How much money the courts believe it would take to send a clear message

Seeking Legal Help

Were you or a loved one recently the victim of personal injury? We at Gattuso & Ciotoli, PLLC may be able to help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced New York auto accident attorneys. We draw on over 50 years of combined legal experience to serve personal injury victims as best we can. We proudly serve the Central New York area, including Fayetteville, Syracuse, Watertown, Binghamton, North Syracuse, Camillus, Liverpool, Cortland, and Auburn.

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