Punitive damages are rarely awarded in negligence-based accidents. This is because in almost all cases a negligent act or failure to act is the result of someone being careless, which causes the accident that in turn causes injury. From a public policy perspective, society does not seek to punish accidents. In most cases, when the careless at-fault party is obligated to pay for the harm they caused, it is more along the lines of simple fairness. The expression “you broke it, you bought it” captures the spirit of this sentiment.
However, one may be entitled to punitive damages in New York if the at-fault party’s actions that led to your case are intentional, grossly negligent, or extremely harmful. The reason for this is that society, acting through the legal system, does want to punish, and thereby deter, such extraordinarily bad and harmful behavior. A personal injury lawyer familiar with the laws of the state will clarify when you can get punitive damages in New York.
Your lawyer will also gather the supporting evidence that proves the at-fault party’s negligence, its degree and extent, and the monetary value of your injuries and the resulting financial expenses and losses. On your own, it might be difficult to understand when you are eligible for punitive damages. Your lawyer will guide you through the personal injury compensation process and ensure you receive all the compensation you are eligible for.
In This Article
- Circumstances That Support Punitive Damages in New York
- Is There a Cap or Limitation on Punitive Damages in New York?
- Contact Our Case Review Team Today
Circumstances That Support Punitive Damages in New York
To pursue a negligent party for financial compensation, you will need to prove their negligence was the cause of your accident and subsequent injuries. That means proving the following:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
As mentioned above, punitive damages are rare because at-fault parties are not typically penalized beyond making financial restitution to injured parties. Punitive damages are typically awarded for egregious acts. Examples of negligence cases that might result in punitive damages include:
- Intentional physical assaults or attacks
- DUI accident cases involving drugs or alcohol
- Hiding or failing to disclose potential dangers (this might include product or medication cases)
- Medical malpractice cases with evidence showing the defendant acted with spite, malice, or a conscious and deliberate disregard of the plaintiff’s wellbeing.
These are examples of willful or wanton negligence society and the legal system want to discourage. It can be difficult to understand the weight of evidence required to prove intentionality. A personal injury lawyer in your area will review the details of your case and build a strong evidence file for you. In most cases, this will result in an out-of-court settlement. If it does not, your lawyer is able to present your case will represent you in court before a judge and jury.
Evidence That Proves Negligence, Intent, and Cause
Your evidence tells the story of your accident, injuries, and recovery. It will also tell all involved parties the accident’s causes and contributing factors. Evidence we collect for you will include all of the following items that are applicable to your case
- Medical records and bills
- Rehab and therapy records and bills
- Accident, incident, and other official reports
- Blood alcohol concentration results
- Statements from accident witnesses
- Injury and accident scene photos
Your lawyer will handle evidence collection for you. They will also handle all case-related verbal, electronic, and written communication with the at-fault party and their insurance representative.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-932-0400
Is There a Cap or Limitation on Punitive Damages in New York?
New York State does not cap — or limit — the amount of compensation you can be awarded in New York personal injury cases. Furthermore, since the idea of punitive damages is to punish and deter, such an award, while rarely made, should be enough so the at-fault party experiences the economic severity. In other words, punitive damage awards can be quite substantial. Rest assured however, you do not have to determine the value of your potential punitive damages without legal guidance.
The personal injury lawyer who represents you will review your accident and ensure your case receives an appropriate and accurate valuation. Your lawyer will also ensure your case is not undervalued or underpaid.
What Other Damages Can I Collect?
In addition to punitive damages, if warranted, in your case, you can also get economic and non-economic damages. In fact, these types of damages are awarded far more frequently than punitive damages. Economic damages are typically documented expenses that will cause you to incur expenses that potentially come right out of your own pocket.
Economic damages can include:
- Medical bills
- Income losses
- Property damage
- Property destructions
Non-economic damages are more difficult to assign a monetary value to. Your lawyer will explain how these intangible damages are calculated. Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Physical disability
- Physical disfigurement
- Mental and emotional angst
If the wrongful death of a loved one is what has brought you to this page, we extend our heartfelt condolences. Where applicable, you might also recover wrongful death damages for the loss of a spouse, parent, or child. These will include funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium, (i.e., the special types of loss, recognized by law, that a person experiences when their spouse is a wrongful death victim,) and loss of companionship. We consider it a special privilege to represent the surviving family members of wrongful death victims. We are determined to win the compensation you need and the justice your departed loved one deserves.
How Long do I Have to File a Lawsuit for Punitive Damages?
If your request for punitive damages is part of an accidental injury case, New York’s personal injury law determines how much time you have to file a lawsuit. According to New York Civil Practice Laws & Rules § 214, you generally have three years from the date of the accident to file your personal injury lawsuit.
If a loved one did not survive the accident they were involved in, Estates, Powers & Trusts § 5-4.1 generally entitles you to two years from the date of their demise to file your wrongful death lawsuit.
If your lawsuit is not filed within the allotted time, you will not be able to file it at all. If you do file your lawsuit past the expiration date, the negligent party or their representative will ask for its immediate dismissal. Either consequence could leave you with no legal avenue that compels the at-fault party to compensate you.
For this reason, as well as practical considerations regarding the gathering of evidence such as witness statements and dashcam and surveillance video, it is in your best interest to contact our office as soon as possible after an accident. The sooner you contact us the greater our opportunity to build the strongest case possible on your behalf.
Contact Our Case Review Team Today
If you were injured in a car, slip and fall, or other accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you can recover compensation for your medical bills and related expenses. When our personal injury law firm represents you, we will explain when you can also get punitive damages in New York.
Learn more about your financial recovery options by calling one of our Friedman & Simon, L.L.P. team members today.