Are Punitive Damages Recoverable in a Personal Injury Claim?

In a personal injury claim, a plaintiff can seek compensation for the full value of their economic and noneconomic losses. But are punitive damages recoverable? 

If you are harmed by another’s negligence in Massachusetts, you maintain the right to bring forth a personal injury claim–a type of civil tort–against the at-fault party. If you are able to prove that your injuries would not have occurred but for the at-fault party’s negligence, you can recover compensation for the full value of your economic costs (e.g. medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) and noneconomic costs (e.g. pain, suffering, and emotional distress). What’s more, in a very small number of personal injury claim types, punitive damages are also awarded by the court. Here’s what you need to know about punitive damages and when they are available in a personal injury claim–

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are not compensatory in nature. This means that they are not designed to compensate a plaintiff for their harm; instead, they are designed to punish a defendant for their wrongdoing. Indeed, punitive damages are designed to both penalize the wrongdoer, and deter such actions in the future. 

When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in a Personal Injury Claim?

Punitive damages are only available in injury cases that result in death, which include both fatal instances of medical malpractice and wrongful death actions. But that’s not all – not only must the injury result in death, but per Massachusetts’ General Laws Chapter 229, Section 2(3), punitive damages will only be awarded if the decedent’s death was caused by the “malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant or by the gross negligence of the defendant.”

What Does a Plaintiff Need to Prove in Order to Recover an Award of Punitive Damages?

In order to recover an away of punitive damages, a plaintiff in a wrongful death action will need to prove that the decedent’s death would not have occurred but for the malicious, willful, wanton, or reckless conduct of the defendant, or as a result of the defendant’s gross negligence. Gross negligence is defined as negligence that is appreciably higher in magnitude than regular negligence. For example, driving while distracted may be considered ordinary negligence; driving while drunk can be classified as gross negligence. 

Consult with a Practiced Personal Injury Attorney Today 

If you have been seriously harmed in an accident, or if you have lost a loved one in an accident, you may have a personal injury or wrongful death claim. At The Law Offices of Alan Hildreth King & Associates, our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you to understand what you need to prove in order to win your claim, as well as what types of damages are available to you. Our team will aggressively represent your best interests every step of the way.

To learn more about how we can assist you and how to start the claims process, reach out to our law firm today for a free consultation.

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