Punitive damages are damages that are intended to punish the at-fault driver and to deter other drivers from behaving in the same way. Most Charleston car accident cases do not involve punitive damages. In order to make a claim for punitive damages, the injured person has to make a showing that the at-fault driver was reckless, willful, wanton.
The purpose of compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff whole again. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for especially bad conduct. If the conduct was intentional for example, or if the conduct is reckless, then that might justify the punitive damages. As a matter of public policy, they are also intended to deter other potential defendants from behaving in that manner. If you believe your Charleston car accident case involves punitive damages, it is important you contact a Charleston car accident attorney experienced in these types of cases as soon as possible. A skilled attorney can best help build your case and fight for your rights following your accident.
Circumstances of Punitive Damages
Circumstances that can lead to a person receiving punitive damages in a Charleston car accident case most typically arise out of conduct where the defendant, the at-fault driver, has been drinking. That is the most common scenario. Reckless conduct of any type would justify a punitive award. For example, racing along a highway or traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour on any road would be reckless and may justify a punitive damage award.
The most common scenario of punitive damages seen South Carolina is where the defendant driver is drunk or is otherwise under the influence of a substance that impairs their ability to operate a vehicle. A typical punitive damage case might arise out of a case where teenagers are racing and traveling at super high speeds on the roadway. Even more common than that, if a person gets behind the wheel of an automobile while intoxicated and causes an automobile accident, then that case as well would likely involve a claim for punitive damages.
It is not very common for juries to award punitive damages in Charleston car accident cases. Most cases are standard negligence cases. It is less common to see an award for punitive damages than it is for compensatory or actual damages.
Factors Influencing Awards
There are a lot of factors that influence an award of punitive damages in Charleston car accident cases. The number one factor would be the defendant’s conduct. That is what is analyzed. If a plaintiff is able to prove that a defendant’s conduct was intentional, reckless or willful, then a jury could choose to award punitive damages.
Another factor is a defendant’s demeanor on the witness stand. If there is an ill mannered defendant whose nastiness shows up in the testimony on cross-examination and the jury decides they do not like the defendant, then it is more likely that a punitive damages award will be brought back.
Working with an Attorney
An attorney handling a case with a punitive damages aspect is just one more facet of the case that needs to considered. In a case not involving punitive damages, one of the jobs of the lawyer is to document and build the case for the actual damages, namely, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. If a plaintiff is married, there is also a loss of consortium claim, but in a punitive damages case, that is just another facet.
Punitive damages cases require building up a case based on the defendant’s conduct by doing the discovery with regard to blood alcohol and chain of custody of the blood alcohol test. Witnesses who may have viewed the defendant’s reckless conduct or viewed that defendant drank prior to entering a vehicle is also considered. It is just another aspect of the case that the Charleston car accident lawyer has to focus on.