You’ve been hurt in an accident. It wasn’t your fault, and yet you may feel scared and alone as you try to figure out what comes next. You may struggle to regain your health, pay the bills, or even get back to work. Why does it feel like you are paying for someone else’s reckless mistake?
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Kentucky, you may already be familiar with the types of damages and compensation that you could recover as a result of a personal injury lawsuit. The goal of a personal injury case is to secure compensation for losses like medical expenses, lost income, reduced earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
Obtaining punitive damages after an accident is a very different matter with a very technical legal framework. This type of claim requires a much more specific set of factors.
You may wonder what punitive damages are and how do you know if you are entitled to seek them. At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we’re here to give you the facts behind Kentucky’s punitive damages law.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines punitive damages as an award or payment to a person who has suffered an injury as a result of negligence or recklessness. Sometimes they are also referred to as exemplary damages. Under this definition of punitive damages, the payment is considered a punishment for reckless actions or behavior.
While compensatory damages compensate a victim for their losses, punitive damages are awarded as a societal statement that imposes an additional financial penalty for an at-fault party’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence. For this reason, a court-imposed punitive damages award can substantially exceed the total amount of compensatory damages.
When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Kentucky?
In limited circumstances, punitive damages are recoverable when the victim has been injured as a result of someone’s reckless or negligent behavior. Under Kentucky law, the misbehavior must show a degree of oppression, fraud, or malice to trigger punitive damages.
Oppression is when the at-fault party intentionally subjects the victim to cruel or unusual hardships. Fraud means purposefully misrepresenting or being deceitful with the intention to cause the victim harm or injury. Malice refers to conduct that is very specifically intended to cause an injury or even conduct that is flagrant with indifference to the rights of others.
Depending on the circumstances of a case, eligibility for punitive damages can be difficult to prove without proper evidence of extreme wrongdoing and harmful intent.
A case may qualify for punitive damages, for example, if the defendant driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol caused a car accident with severe, permanent injuries. Punitive damages are the way to punish and discourage other drivers from engaging a similar type of reckless and dangerous behavior.
The best course of action if you have been injured in an accident is to schedule a free consultation with the Kentucky personal injury lawyers at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer. We can carefully analyze the unique circumstances of your accident to determine the types of compensation that you may be eligible to recover.
Punitive Damages vs. Compensatory Damages
Punitive damages constitute a form of financial punishment that can be awarded to the victim of an accident caused by the reckless behavior of the at-fault party. Under the definition of punitive and exemplary damages, precise intentions and circumstances must be in play for a court to decide on awarding the extra damages.
Compensatory or actual damages, on the other hand, are meant to repay the victim of an accident for their losses. Compensatory damages may include remuneration for the following:
- Healthcare services, such as hospital bills, doctor’s bill, medical tests, and pharmacy costs
- Future medical expenses, such as physical or occupational therapy
- Loss of income
- Loss of potential future income
- Property damage or vehicle repair
- Quality of life diminishment
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional suffering
What Is the Punitive Damages Cap in Kentucky?
In Kentucky, there is no cap on punitive damages that a court can award to a victim. It is up to the courts and jury to determine the suitable dollar amount that serves as a deterrent from future behavior.
Unlike some other states, there are no limits on punitive damages in Kentucky. The circumstances surrounding the accident may influence what a court deems is an appropriate and reasonable award.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Fight for Maximum Compensation
Since punitive damages are designed as a form of civil court punishment, a victim must prove that the at-fault party knew ahead of time that their actions or failure to act could cause serious harm to someone else, and they disregarded the danger.
There has to be an extreme or unacceptable level of misconduct that goes well beyond mere negligence. This can be harder to prove than simply establishing that the victim suffered harm after an unfortunate mistake.
Given this high standard, you need a knowledgeable lawyer on your side who is experienced in handling cases that involve punitive damages in personal injury cases. A judge or jury must be thoroughly convinced about the at-fault party’s egregious misconduct before they award punitive damages in a trial.
An attorney must be backed by an aggressive investigative team and have the resources needed to conduct a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding your accident. You also need a legal team well-versed in the intricacies of Kentucky law with a strong track record of successful negotiation and trial experience.
At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we pride ourselves on our Kentucky Courage in fighting to obtain the compensation that hardworking Kentuckians deserve after a car accident or another personal injury. Stand up for your rights before another person falls victim to the same reckless and negligent behavior that sidelined you.
Contact Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer today. If you’ve got the Kentucky Courage to come forward, we’ve got the strength to fight for you. Call us today or reach out to us online and put Kentucky Courage on your side.