When you file a lawsuit against another individual, such as for a Tampa auto accident, a business, or another type of organization for causing you injury or loss, then you are likely seeking to cover associated costs. However, in some cases, the courts may surprise the plaintiff and the defendant by awarding monetary compensation above and beyond what is being requested by the plaintiff. When this happens, it is generally a form of punishment legally inflicted by the courts.
Punitive damages are charged to defendants, when deemed necessary by the judge or jury, and are intended to reform the behaviors of the guilty party(ies). It is the belief that the punishment will be enough to deter the defendant from partaking in actions like that which resulted in the lawsuit. In some cases, this type of compensation is ordered because the compensatory damages — those paid to cover the expenses related to the injury or loss – are not thought adequate enough given the circumstances of the incident. Generally, though, punitive damages are awarded when the act was considered to be a malicious or is ruled intentional misconduct. There are a number of cases that can lead to this type of ruling by the court, including companies continuing to manufacture and sell a product known to be defective or a doctor knowingly treating a patient incorrectly or outside the accepted norm.
The United States is not the only country to adapt the practice of monetarily punishing plaintiffs that have shown extreme or intentional harm to others. There are many nations throughout the world that share the same practice with slightly different regulations tied to them.
It is important to remember, however, that punitive damages are not overly common. In the vast majority of tort cases, the damages awarded can be justified by a list of medical expenses, lost wages, or the loss of future expected earnings. The likelihood that your case will result in punitive damages being awarded depends entirely on the facts of the case. Your attorney can help you assess the chances, but one can never perfectly predict how a judge or jury will rule.