What Are The Criteria For Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are a type of compensation that is awarded on top of economic damages. They are usually at the discretion of the jury and are intended to punish the defendant for outrageous, reckless, or grossly negligent actions.Different types of accidents can result in punitive damages for the victim. In personal injury cases, punitive damages may be available if the jury is convinced the defendant performed grossly negligent or unreasonably reckless actions against the victim. Alternatively, consider the case of an explosion at a chemical plant, a fire at a refinery, or car crash. Other examples are failure to use industry standard safety precautions or failure to have emergency response equipment available when they know the work was inherently dangerous
What Is Required To Prove Punitive Damages?
Unanimous jury verdict. The evidence needed to prove punitive damages is evidence that it is more likely than not that the defendant acted with extreme recklessness or disregard for the safety of others. It is important to keep in mind that a unanimous jury verdict is required. This means that all members of the jury must agree the conduct was extremely reckless disregard and that the conduct should be punished by award of punitive damages and they must agree on the amount of the punitive.
A Familiar Example: The McDonald’s Coffee Cup Case
Punitive damages are often thought of in relation to the famous McDonald’s Coffee Cup case. In short, a woman was given a cup of coffee that was too hot, she took the lid off in her lap, and ended up with hot coffee spilled on her legs and crotch. She suffered severe skin burns. Her case was so successful because she was awarded punitive damages in addition to economic damages.
In that instance, the economic damages covered the cost of medical treatment and any plastic surgery required. The non-economic punitive damages covered things like mental anguish, pain, and suffering.
In this particular case, the expert testifying on behalf of McDonald’s testified the coffee’s extreme heat extracted more flavor from the coffee beans and it was cheaper for McDonald’s to pay burn-related settlements than to decrease the water temperature. Because this testimony showed an egregious lack of regard, the jury awarded punitive damages.
What You Should Know About Punitive Damages & Litigation?
It’s crucial to understand that in many instances, almost every time a huge damage award is decided by a jury, appeals will be filed and settlements will be negotiated during the appeals process. This process often takes a significant amount of time.
In the end, plaintiffs will end up settling for less than what is awarded to them. This is often due to expediency and practicality. However, this causes some people to have to pay a tremendous amount of money for their injuries, which can be very sad. To avoid drastic outcomes, you must have a qualified attorney build your case for you.
For more information on Civil Claims Law in Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 714-0073 today.
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