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Asking for Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Personal Injury


Were you harmed by someone’s egregious behavior? Are you recovering from physical, psychological, and financial injuries caused by another person or company’s actions that were so bad, they shock those who hear about them? If you have a personal injury claim based on extreme negligence or reckless behavior, then you may be entitled to punitive damages.

Contact a Chicago personal injury attorney from Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. to learn more. Call us at (312) 236-2900.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are those meant to punish a wrongdoer. A court uses this type of recovery to hold an individual or company responsible for their actions, prevent that individual or company from doing something similar in the future, and deter other parties from acting similarly. Unlike economic and noneconomic compensatory damages, punitive damages are not intended to reimburse you for your expenses or compensate you for your injuries. These go beyond the legal theory of “making you whole” after an accident.

When Punitive Damages Are Available in Personal Injury Cases

Punitive damages are an exception to the rule and are only available when the other party is guilty of gross negligence, recklessness, or intentionally harmful conduct. You are not entitled to punitive damages in a personal injury case based on ordinary negligence, which means most personal injury cases do not include this type of recovery.

You can request punitive damages when the other party’s actions were:

  • Fraudulent
  • Intentional
  • Willful and wanton

Additionally, punitive damages can only be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. You cannot obtain punitive damages without first recovering ordinary damages for your injuries.

Seeking Punitive Damages

You are responsible for asking for punitive damages if you believe you should be entitled to them. Your attorney must then offer the court evidence that the other party’s actions went beyond negligence and were so bad, so beyond what should be tolerated by society, that they should be punished.

To prove punitive damages are appropriate, your attorney will offer evidence of:

  • How the defendant acted, including the surrounding circumstances
  • Why the defendant acted that way
  • How the defendant engaged in the relevant actions
  • Whether the defendant tried to hide the relevant actions
  • Your vulnerability
  • The actual and potential harm the defendant caused you

How Much Are Punitive Damages?

The amount you receive in punitive damages is determined by the jury. The jury will look at the severity and reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions to determine the amount of money that is appropriate to punish the wrongdoer. Illinois does not place a cap on punitive damages, though a defendant can appeal an amount of punitive damages for being excessive. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be awarded hundreds, thousands, or millions in punitive damages. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about how much your case may be worth.

What if the Defendant Wants to Settle?

Since punitive damages are awarded by a jury, they are not typically included in a settlement offer. If the defendant wishes to settle the case outside of court, then you and your attorney will need to ensure that the offer includes an amount that could have been determined by the jury beyond compensatory damages.

Call a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you were hurt because of someone’s ill-intentioned actions or reckless disregard for other people’s safety, you should speak with an experienced attorney from Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. about punitive damages. This type of recovery can greatly increase the compensation you receive during a personal injury claim. However, it is not always available. To learn more about your chance of receiving punitive damages, contact contact us at (312) 236-2900 to schedule an initial consultation.

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(312) 236-2900
(312) 236-2900