After a negligent party causes harm to someone, victims have the right to file an insurance claim or lawsuit to earn support to pay for their recoveries. The victim hopes to receive compensation to help with medical bills, financial hardships, property damage, and other damages caused by the accident. These awards are called “compensatory damages” and are granted to help victims recover physically and financially.
However, there is another type of award available to victims that intends to punish guilty parties for their actions. They are called “punitive damages” and in extreme cases of neglect and recklessness, victims can ask for these damages to be leveled against at-fault parties.
In Kentucky, punitive damages are rare, but in some cases, they can earn victims much more in compensation while serving to discourage wrongdoers from ever putting others in harm’s way again.
What Are Punitive Damages in Kentucky?
Under Kentucky law, punitive damages are meant to be a form of financial punishment for at-fault parties. They are leveled against individuals or companies to increase the financial penalty for their reckless actions to hopefully keep them from ever taking those actions again.
Punitive damages (or exemplary damages) are awarded along with and on top of compensatory damages. They still go to the victim. The intention is to punish the wrongdoers so that they and other potential wrongdoers have additional reasons to avoid dangerous conduct in the years ahead.
Punitive damages are usually awarded when a guilty party’s actions are intentional or show extreme disregard for someone’s safety. Most personal injury cases don’t rise to this level. But when gross negligence factors into the cause of someone’s injury, victims can ask for punitive damages.
Gross negligence is defined as conduct that is reckless and that constitutes a conscious disregard or indifference to someone’s safety or rights.
Punitive Damages Threshold For Kentucky
In Kentucky, punitive damages can be requested when a case involves an individual or an entity demonstrating a certain level of oppression, fraud, or malice.
- Malice – Intentionally placing someone at risk of harm.
- Oppression – Reprehensible and cruel conduct that inflicts injury. This can often involve misconduct on the part of someone in authority.
- Fraud – Intentional deceit that robs someone of assets or puts them at risk of injury.
Whether your case rises to a level where punitive damages would be appropriate is best determined by a skilled local attorney with experience in Kentucky Law. A personal injury lawyer can help you decide whether you should ask for punitive damages against the at-fault party or focus on securing compensatory damages for your injuries and financial hardships.
How Much Can I Earn in a Punitive Damages Case in Kentucky?
In Kentucky, there is no limit to how much punitive damages a judge or jury can award a victim. There are factors that can affect how much you may be awarded in a punitive damages case.
- The conduct of the defendant. Did his or her behavior become ridiculously careless or reckless?
- The defendant’s assets. This is why businesses and corporations are more often hit with punitive damages. An individual may feel the financial effects of paying out even a small judgment, but to a corporation, that judgment may just be a drop in the bucket. A much more substantial punishment may be necessary to deter a company from behaving recklessly again.
- The victim’s suffering. You may have suffered a broken bone or a brain injury and could have been off your feet and out of work for months. You could be dealing with a permanent disability or disfigurement. The difficulty of your recovery can increase the chances of punitive damages being awarded.
- The protection of others. If an individual or entity isn’t appropriately punished, are they more likely to go forth and put others in danger in the future?
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Serving Kentucky Victims
After suffering a serious injury in a traffic collision, a slip-and-fall at a business, or any other type of accident, please contact a local attorney to go over your options. You should never be burdened with the costs of recovery for an accident that wasn’t your fault.
Compensation for all of your hardships should be provided by the insurance companies for the at-fault individuals or entities responsible. And if their behavior purposely put you at risk or showed dangerous levels of disregard, you may be in line to receive punitive damages. While getting the support you need for recovery, you could also make sure those at fault face the appropriate consequences for what they’ve done.
The attorneys at Kaufman & Stigger, PLLC, have a combined 100 years of experience in helping clients and their families get the compensation they need to rebuild their lives. To discuss your case in a free consultation contact Kaufman & Stigger, PLLC, today.