There are multiple types of damages you may pursue after suffering a personal injury in Illnois. First, you may obtain compensatory damages that reimburse you for the harm and loss you experienced as the result of the defendant’s negligence. Furthermore, you may also acquire punitive damages if certain conditions are met.
Punitive damages seek to punish a defendant for their especially reckless behavior and discourage others from exhibiting similar conduct in the future. Someone who causes an accident by acting somewhat carelessly will not be obligated to pay punitive damages. Rather, they may only be awarded in cases where the defendant acted intentionally or with extreme recklessness.
If you need help with your personal injury lawsuit, connect with our experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys at the Rhatigan Law Offices by calling (312) 578-8502.
The Definition of “Punitive Damages” in Illinois Injury Lawsuits
In contrast to compensatory damages which seek to indemnify plaintiffs for damages caused by defendants’ actions, punitive damages intend to punish wrongdoers for their inappropriate behavior. Deterrence is also a primary focus behind an award of punitive damages. Defendants are ordered to pay punitive damages in order to discourage others from committing similarly negligent actions in the future.
Some people may refer to punitive damages as “exemplary damages” because they intend to make an example out of defendants. Still, in many cases, they are unavailable. You may only obtain punitive damages if you were hurt as the result of particularly egregious or criminal behavior. While assessing your case, our Illinois personal injury lawyers can determine whether you may be able to pursue punitive damages from the at-fault party.
When are Punitive Damages Available in an Injury Case in Illinois?
In order to recover punitive damages in your case, you must have been hurt as the result of the defendant’s reckless or intentionally harmful behavior. Generally, to be awarded these damages, you must show that the defendant acted with an evil motive or with an outrageous indifference to the safety of others.
Furthermore, punitive damages cannot be awarded on their own. They have to be awarded in conjunction with other compensatory, nominal, or restitution damages. All other damages will be awarded first with punitive damages coming last.
Factors Used to Determine Whether to Award Punitive Damages
The jury will decide the amount of punitive damages to award in your personal injury case. They will be read specific jury instructions that outline the factors they should consider when calculating the appropriate value for punitive damages.
First, the jury will review the entirety of the defendant’s conduct. This involves assessing the totality of circumstances surrounding the misconduct at issue. For example, the jury may consider long the misconduct lasted or whether the defendant exhibited similar behavior in the past. Also, the jury may consider if the defendant attempted to conceal their wrongdoing.
Additionally, the jury will also be instructed to consider the degree of harm suffered by the victim. Greater amounts of punitive damages will be awarded if the defendant’s conduct caused severe injuries.
After reviewing these circumstances, the jury will determine the amount of monetary damages needed to punish the defendant and deter future wrongs. This amount can vary drastically from case to case.
Examples of Personal Injury Cases Where Punitive Damages May Be Awarded in Illinois
As previously discussed, punitive damages can only be awarded in cases where defendants exhibited grossly negligent or intentional behavior. For example, in a car accident case, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant was found to be driving drunk and travelling the wrong way down a one-way street. Furthermore, a negligent driver may be liable for punitive damages if they caused an accident while drag racing on a public street.
Punitive damages may also be awarded in premises liability cases. As an example, imagine a store has a cracked gutter that leaks water onto the entranceway, causing the floor to become slippery. Many customers have nearly slipped and notified management of the leak. The store continues to ignore the hazard while more patrons suffer falls on the slippery floor. In that case, a victim who slipped and fell because of the hazard that was ignored for so long would likely be able to pursue punitive damages.
Finally, you may be awarded punitive damages if you were the victim of medical malpractice. For instance, imagine that you were hurt because your doctor committed a surgical error. If the physician who committed the error later attempted to change your medical records to hide evidence of the mistake, then you may be able to recover punitive damages.
What Evidence is Needed to Support Claims for Punitive Damages in Illinois Personal Injury Lawsuits?
In order to recover punitive damages, you must gather and preserve evidence that proves the defendant acted with gross negligence or intentional misconduct. There are multiple types of evidence that can be used to accomplish this task.
First, evidence from the scene of an accident may be used to prove that a defendant acted recklessly. For example, open liquor bottles or drug paraphernalia found at the scene of a car crash may be used to demonstrate that the defendant was impaired when they caused the accident. Furthermore, photos of a totaled vehicle may be used to show that a defendant driver was travelling at excessive speeds. These pieces of evidence may not be enough to support a claim for punitive damages on their own, but they can help the jury understand the totality of circumstances surrounding the defendant’s egregious behavior.
Additionally, witness statements can be highly valuable when establishing a claim for punitive damages in your personal injury case. Witnesses can offer testimony that proves at-fault parties acted with intent or with reckless indifference to human life. For instance, a witness may state that they repeatedly notified a property owner of a dangerous hazard that the owner continued to neglect.
After Suffering an Injury in Illinois, Call Our Law Firm for Help
Get help from our experienced Rockford, IL personal injury lawyers at the Rhatigan Law Offices by dialing (312) 578-8502.