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What are punitive damages?

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2021 | Wrongful Death

In a wrongful death case, the court will award you various damages. These are payments the other person must make to you for set amounts.

Damages typically include payments for medical expenses and loss of life. They may also include punitive damages, which Cornell Law School explains are punishment.

How they work

The court would award punitive damages in the same way it awards other damages. It would impose it as part of the order when closing the case. These damages do not compensate you for anything you lost. Rather, they are the court’s way of punishing the other person for his or her actions.

When they apply

Punitive damages are not common. Courts are hesitant to impose them and restrict their use for cases where they feel the defendant behaved in an especially horrible way or did something exceptionally terrible. They are more common for wrongful death cases than for other personal injury claims.

Why they order

A judge will use punitive damages as a form of punishment because in civil cases it is the only means by which to punish a defendant. Civil cases do not allow a judge to sentence a person to incarceration. Many times, judges use punitive damages as a way to make a statement and as a warning to the person to never do what they did again. They can also serve to warn others about being aware and not doing what the defendant in the case did to cause the loss of life.

Your case may not end with a punitive damage award. The decision is completely up to the judge in the case.


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