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Punitive Damages in California Personal Injury Lawsuits: What Are They and When Are They Collected?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

When you suffer a personal injury due to the negligence or misconduct of another person, a lawsuit can generally be made to seek compensation for your losses and injuries.

In these cases, compensation includes medical costs related to the injury, lost wages due to inability to work, and pain and suffering caused, among other economic and non-economic damages resulting from the accident and your injury.

In rare cases, the victim is even entitled to additional compensation called “punitive damages.”

What Are Punitive Damages?

Also known as “exemplary damages” or “penalty damages,” they are compensation that is intended not to repair harm to the victim but rather to punish the defendant for his or her negligent, reckless, or intentional behavior, and thus deter him from continuing to act in that manner as well as reduce the chances of another accident.

They are additional financial penalties and can be significantly greater than compensatory damages as they are not directly related to the losses suffered.

When Are Punitive Damages Collected in California?

For punitive damages to be awarded in a personal injury case, some requirements must be met, which we will detail below:

  • Malicious, Oppressive, or Fraudulent Conduct: Meaning that the defendant was not only negligent, but her conduct was deliberate and highly harmful.
  • Clear Evidence: The jury must find evidence of malicious, oppressive, or fraudulent conduct.
  • Connection to the Injury: Even if this compensation is not financially related to the damages suffered and the costs involved, it must be related to the accident.
  • Proportionality: They must be proportional to the severity of the defendant’s conduct.

Note that punitive damages generally cannot exceed nine times the compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff, or $500,000, whichever is greater. As with any rule, there are exceptions and very few cases where this limitation may not apply.

If you have suffered personal injuries due to an accident due to the negligence and recklessness of another person, you must contact a personal injury attorney like the experts at J&Y Law Firm today. They can guide you through the entire process and fight for the compensation you deserve. Reach out to us today by calling us at (877) 426-6580 or by filling out our contact form.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.