What Are Punitive Damages?
Those who have suffered serious injuries caused by the negligent acts of others understand all too well the pain, anguish and financial devastation that can result. If there is ever any sort of silver lining to be found under such circumstances, it is that the law affords those impacted in this way the opportunity to pursue compensation and justice in the courts. Broadly speaking, such individuals can seek economic damages, non-economic damages and, in certain instances, punitive damages from the party or parties responsible. Though not available in every jurisdiction across the country, Colorado does provide victims the opportunity to recover punitive damages under limited circumstances. Denver personal injury attorney, Jeremy Rosenthal, is ready and willing to advise injury victims on whether this type of recovery might be available in their case and how best to obtain it.
What is the Purpose of Punitive Damage Awards?
Plainly stated, punitive or exemplary damages are designed to punish or deter the defendant or others in the general public from engaging in the type of conduct deemed responsible for the harm sustained by the victim in a given case. This stands in contrast to compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic ones, which are meant to compensate victims for calculable expenses stemming from the event in question or for more intangible types of loss suffered. Punitive damages tend to be awarded only in a limited number of circumstances, namely when the actions of the defendant in a matter are determined to have been especially offensive, egregious, willful or wanton in nature.
Facts About Punitive Damages
Many victims of negligence resulting in injury wonder whether or not punitive damages might be available in their individual case. The answer to that question is not always as straightforward as one might expect. While Colorado does provide for the possibility of punitive damages in some types of cases, there are limits on the amount of compensation they may yield, and even when they are granted by a jury, a judge still retains authority to disallow or reduce them. Therefore, it is wise for prospective plaintiffs to approach expectations of receiving this type of damage award with a fair degree of caution.
Why a Plaintiff Might Decide to Seek Punitive Damages
Injury victims may decide to pursue punitive damages when the conduct of the negligent party in their case is so wrongful that a clear need for punishment and/or deterrence is indicated. In addition to enhanced financial recovery, a request for punitive damages can serve a strategic purpose by underscoring to jury members just how serious the harm sustained truly has been.
How Punitive Damage Requests Can Prove Problematic
While punitive damages can be a benefit to certain types of plaintiffs, there are instances in which requesting them can prove harmful, frustrating or even futile. Colorado insurance law does not provide that carriers are legally bound to pay punitive damages that are ultimately assessed against an at-fault driver, though they must pay economic and non-economic damages assessed. As a result, punitive damage awards may, therefore be difficult to collect in cases where the responsible party has little in the way of personal assets.
Limits on Punitive Damages in Colorado
It must be remembered that punitive damages are awarded as a means of punishment for onerous conduct and also as a way to deter future instance of the same type of acts. Damages of this sort are not directly linked to the true amount of losses experienced by an injury victim. The Colorado legislature has impose a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded by a jury. The term used to describe this limit is “one for one,” meaning that any award of punitive damages made by a jury will necessarily be reduced following the verdict so that it does not exceed the dollar amount of actual damages awarded.
Punitive Damages and the Quest for Justice
It goes without saying that virtually all victims of negligence feel an intense desire to hold responsible parties accountable for the pain and suffering they have inflicted. While pursuing compensation for medical expenses, physical agony, lost wages, emotional distress and other types of loss can go a long way toward meeting that objective, there are times when the conduct at issue was so profoundly offensive that an even stronger message needs to be sent. Under such circumstances, punitive damages can be a useful mechanism for sending a message to wrongdoers while simultaneously adding to the resources a victim has available to aid in his or her recovery process.
Pursuing Fairness for Colorado Plaintiffs
While punitive damages may not be available or even advisable in all cases, there are numerous situations in which it makes good sense to explore the possibility of pursuing this type of recovery. At the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal, we handle a broad range of claims that includes:
- car accidents
- truck crashes
- distracted driving accidents
- vehicle defect-related accidents
- pedestrian impact events
- motorcycle collisions
- bicycling accidents
When incidents such as those listed above are the product of especially egregious or grossly negligent actions on the part of others, a request for punitive damages may well be worth consideration. In all cases, attorney Jeremy Rosenthal will investigate the facts of what occurred, analyze causation in great detail and develop strategies aimed at obtaining maximum financial compensation.
Asserting Your Rights Following a Serious Injury
There can be no denying the disruption, confusion, and despair that can and regularly do arise in the aftermath of a devastating injury event. However, victims and their families must always keep in mind that the time to pursue justice is not unlimited, and the time to gather convincing evidence and build successful legal arguments is now.
If you would like to learn more about your options for legal recourse following a serious accident, Jeremy Rosenthal stands ready to provide the key insights and guidance you need. For a no-cost initial evaluation of the facts of your case, contact us at 303.825.2223.