Motorcycle accidents often lead to painful debilitating injuries, weeks or months away from work, and big medical bills.
Many motorcycle accident victims who seek compensation get money for their economic damages (their medical bills and lost wages) and their non-economic damages (their pain and suffering), especially when they employ an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who won’t let insurance companies’ bias against riders affect their claim.
But for some victims, a third type of compensation is available: punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault party rather than compensate the injured party, although the money from these damages does still go to the victims.
Here’s what has to happen to make you eligible to receive punitive damages after a motorcycle crash.
You Can Only Get Punitive Damages if Your Case Goes to Trial
Punitive damages are only awarded to victims by juries. That means they’re only available when injury lawsuits end up in court and are decided there, too. If your case never progresses into a lawsuit, or if it settles at any point before a jury verdict (even if it has already gone to court), you can’t get punitive damages.
You Can Only Get Punitive Damage if You Also Get Economic/Non-Economic Damages
Punitive damages don’t stand alone. They can only be awarded in addition to damages for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The At-Fault Party Must Have Been Extremely Reckless or Malicious
If the driver who hit you was driving 10 mph over the speed limit, texting, mildly impaired, or following you too closely, it’s unlikely you’ll get punitive damages. Juries typically only award punitive damages when at-fault parties exhibit reckless disregard for the rights of others, including the people they injure.
Examples of motorcycle accidents that can result in punitive damages for victims may include:
- Crashes caused by drag racing or “playing chicken” on public streets
- Crashes caused by extreme intoxication
- Crashes caused by road rage
- Crashes caused by vehicles with serious mechanical problems known to the driver that affected the vehicle’s safety
Ultimately, it’s up to juries to decide if punitive damages may be awarded.
You Likely Need a Lawyer to Get Them
Punitive damages are often awarded when juries are convinced that they’re necessary to punish and make an example of the defendants in civil trials. Experienced trial lawyers are key in this process, as they can highlight the degree of recklessness that injured their clients and the financial punishment the at-fault parties should incur.
With a lawyer on your side, you’ll also know ahead of time if punitive damages are likely or even a possibility. Many motorcyclists who were hurt in crashes caused by negligence aren’t eligible for punitive damages because the degree of negligence or recklessness of the driver who hit them wasn’t great enough.
You Can’t Get More Than a Certain Amount of Money in Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are capped in Oklahoma at:
- $100,000, or,
- The total combined amount of the economic and non-economic damages
In other words, if your total damages are $70,000, you could still be awarded up to $100,000 in punitive damages. But if your total damages are $120,000, your punitive damages are capped at $120,000.
The Amount of Money You Receive Is Based on Several Factors
Oklahoma Statute §23-9.1 Section A says that punitive damages are awarded by juries based on a few factors, including:
- The degree of danger the at-fault party’s misconduct poses to the public
- The profitability of the misconduct to the at-fault party
- The length of time the misconduct occurs as well as any attempts to conceal it
- The degree the at-fault party is aware of the dangers and excessiveness of their misconduct
- The attitude and conduct of the at-fault party when their misconduct is discovered
- The financial status of the at-fault party
Contact Our Oklahoma Motorcycle Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we’ve handled many motorcycle accident cases over the years. And we’ve also taken many of those cases to trial—some of which ended with our clients receiving punitive damages. When you contact us, we can quickly and accurately determine if you may be eligible for punitive damages, and if so, we will pursue them aggressively if your case goes to trial.
Although punitive damages are rare, they serve a valuable purpose, and they should never be left on the table when injured victims deserve them (and at-fault parties deserve the financial punishment). Contact our Oklahoma motorcycle accident attorneys today for a free case review. We’ll put our decades of personal injury experience to work for you and your family.