Movies and television can give people an inaccurate impression of the U.S. justice system. This includes leaving people with misperceptions about lawsuits in personal injury cases of different types. Frequently, films and television programs that feature trials associated with personal injuries end with fantastic trials and enormous verdicts in favor of the plaintiff. These huge verdicts include what are known as punitive, or exemplary, damages. Watching Hollywood productions easily leads people to believe that punitive damages and very large judgments in personal injury cases are commonplace.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you need to have a basic understanding of how a personal injury claim and lawsuit works. This includes having a realistic expectation of whether a claim for punitive damages may be available in your lawsuit for personal injuries.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages represent additional compensation in a limited number of personal injury lawsuits. Punitive damages are awarded when a jury determines that the conduct of the party causing an accident, and associated injuries, was particularly egregious or reckless.
In the state of Arizona, the standard typically applied when considering an award of punitive damages is “deliberate indifference.” The Arizona Supreme Court has described the level of indifference as being conduct guided by an “evil hand” and “evil mind.”
Two-step Process for Obtaining Punitive Damages
There exists what can fairly be described as a two-step process to obtaining punitive damages in an Arizona personal injury lawsuit. First, a judge will make an initial determination whether sufficient evidence exists to make a claim for punitive damages in the first instance. Second, if a judge allows you to pass over that initial hurdle, determining an award for punitive damages then becomes a question for the jury in a personal injury case.
Representation from an Arizona Personal Injury Attorney
Because of the challenges associated with seeking punitive damages in a personal injury case, if you feel you have such a claim, you should consult a qualified, experienced Arizona personal injury attorney. The first step in retaining legal counsel is scheduling an initial consultation. Typically, no fee is charged for an initial consultation with an Arizona personal injury lawyer.
Punitive Damages Rarely are Awarded
Despite all the bluster coming from films and TV shows, punitive damages are not often awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. In fact, only about 5 percent of verdicts in personal injury lawsuits in the United States include compensation in the form of punitive damages.