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Punitive damages

Often when the public hears about a large verdict (and is sometimes outraged by it), the verdict is so large because of punitive damages. It’s important to understand what punitive damages are and why they can make a verdict so large.

Generally speaking, the purpose of civil lawsuits is to put the plaintiff back in the position he or she was in before the injury and loss. Unfortunately, the only tool the law has to do so is money. The damages that are usually awarded are called compensatory damages. For example, let’s say as a result of a metal on metal hip implant, the plaintiff incurred loss and damages from lost time at work, medical bills and pain and suffering. These are all common damages in civil law suits and rarely cause controversy.

Now let’s change our hypothetical a little bit. Lets say the company who made the metal on metal hip knew the product was dangerous and not only failed to warn the public but actively promoted the product. Under this scenario, the law recognizes that the defendant needs to be punished in addition to the damages they are ordered to pay as compensatory damages. The hope is that manufacturers of defective medical devices, bad drugs or consumer products learn that this type of conduct will not be accepted through the publication of punitive damage awards.

As you can imagine, punitive damage awards are controversial and vary from state to state. Some states allow juries to award punitive damages in any amount that they feel is appropriate. Plaintiffs can, and do, receive multimillion-dollar punitive damage awards. Other states have severely limited punitive damage awards by limiting the types of cases where they can be awarded or placing statutory caps on how much money a jury or judge can award for punitive damages.

Punitive damages are only awarded in a small number of cases. However, they play an important role in the law. When you hear of a large verdict against a company that is probably because the jury heard evidence that the company was grossly negligent or even intentionally caused the injury or loss.

The next time you hear of a huge verdict, ask yourself why it was so large before you get outraged at it. It probably means the defendant did something that called for them to be punished. It’s sad but there are many examples of giant corporations only caring about their profit and not who they hurt. That is why the attorneys at have dedicated their professional lives to fighting for justice and ensuring that companies don’t profit off hurting others.

Please contact us at 1(855) 464-0808 or for a free legal evaluation of your claims today!

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