When a person is injured due to the negligence of another, they maintain the right to bring forth a personal injury claim for damages. This type of claim allows the victim to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, property damage expenses, and any other economic or non-economic damages they've suffered.
Another type of compensation that may be available in a Colorado personal injury claim, but which is rarer, is punitive damages. Also called exemplary damages, punitive damages are only awarded in certain cases. Here's a look at what you should know about punitive damages if you are filing a Colorado personal injury claim.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Unlike economic and non-economic damages, called compensatory damages, which are designed to compensate the victim for the harm they have incurred, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant rather than compensate the victim. As such, these damages are not based on the plaintiff's losses, but rather on the defendant's behavior.
When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Colorado?
As found in Colorado Revised Statutes Section 13-21-102, a jury may award a plaintiff punitive damages in a civil action in which the jury finds that the defendant committed their actions with "fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct."
The statute continues on to define willful and wanton conduct as that conduct which was purposefully committed, and which the defendant understood to be dangerous, done heedlessly, and committed without regard to the consequences of the actions or the safety to others, particularly the plaintiff.
How Much Can I Receive in Punitive Damages?
Unlike compensatory damages, which you will request in your initial claim in an amount that you find to be appropriate based on the extent of harm you have suffered, a plaintiff is barred from requesting punitive damages in their initial claim for relief. Instead, a jury will decide to award punitive damages and decide the appropriate amount of punitive damages based on a review of evidence after the plaintiff provides proof that the issue should be investigated further as an amendment to the pleadings. That being said, Colorado statute prohibits a jury from awarding a punitive damages award that is greater than the total amount of actual damages awarded to the injured party.
The statute does make an exception to the cap on punitive damages allowed, however. In fact, the law reads that the court may increase the amount of exemplary damages awarded to three times the amount of actual damages awarded in the case that:
- The defendant has continued the behavior against the plaintiff of another person that is the subject of the claim; or
- The defendant has acted, during the course of the claim, in a willful or wanton manner to aggravate the damages to the plaintiff.
Call Our Colorado Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you have been injured by the actions of another party and think that you may be entitled to exemplary damages, call our legal team at the office of Anderson Hemmat today for a free consultation and legal advice about your case. You can reach us by phone at (303) 782-9999, or by sending us a message telling us more about your accident and injuries.