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Can you pursue punitive damages following a car crash?

Aug 18, 2021 |

Picking your child up from school and driving them to ballet class or soccer practice are usually uneventful parts of daily life for parents in the Cleveland area. However, you simply cannot control the actions of other drivers. Other drivers may be distracted, aggressive or even drunk when they cause a car crash.

If your child is injured in a car crash caused by a negligent driver, you may want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible driver. While it is important to obtain the financial compensation you need, you may also want to ensure justice has been done especially in egregious cases of negligence. In this case, you may want to pursue punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

What are punitive damages versus compensatory damages?

There is a difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages in personal injury cases. Compensatory damages include damages that compensate you for your losses and make you financially whole again. Some examples of compensatory damages include compensation for economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages and compensation for noneconomic damages such as loss of consortium and pain and suffering. What all these damages have in common is that a dollar amount can be determined that will make the plaintiff financially whole again.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the wrongdoer for intentional acts or wanton and willful misconduct that harmed the aggrieved individual. Punitive damages hold the wrongdoer accountable and aim to deter similar egregious acts from happening in the future. An award of punitive damages in Ohio is relatively rare.

When will punitive damages be awarded in Ohio?

Under Ohio law, punitive damages will only be awarded in the following circumstances. First, you need to prove the defendant was negligent and thus you should be awarded compensatory damages based on this negligence. At this first stage of the trial process, punitive damages will not apply.

Second, if the court decides you should be awarded compensatory damages, then you can pursue punitive damages. To be awarded punitive damages you must be able to show that the defendant committed a malicious, aggravated or egregious act. In addition, the court must find that you deserve punitive damages based on this gross negligence. Punitive damages are capped at $350,000 in personal injury claims.

Do not rule out pursuing punitive damages in car accident cases

If you or your child were injured after being involved in a car crash involving a negligent driver, you may suffer significant financial setbacks. Sometimes, compensation for your economic and noneconomic losses simply is not enough. By pursuing punitive damages, you can help ensure that the negligent party is held accountable, and you can move forward with a sense that justice has been done.