If you were recently hurt in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you’ll need as much money as you can get to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and other crash-related expenses. You may have heard of some injured victims receiving extra compensation called “punitive damages” from the people or parties who hurt them, and be wondering if you can get this compensation, too.
The good news is that car accident victims can receive punitive damages, but they’re not awarded to all car accident victims who are awarded settlements. Instead, they’re given to car accident victims who were hurt by people whose behavior was extremely negligent, reckless, or violent. And unlike most accident-related damages that are paid via insurance policies, punitive damages must be paid out of pocket by at-fault parties.
Punitive Damages Are Only Awarded by Juries
Car accident victims can get compensation for their accident-related expenses without ever stepping foot in a courtroom. In fact, most car accident claims settle out of court. At-fault parties and their insurers pay victims for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering based on back-and-forth negotiation, and then the case settles for good.
Punitive damages can’t be awarded via out of court settlements because they are part of jury verdicts. When car accident lawsuits are tried in civil court, the outcomes are decided by juries. When these juries make their decisions, they can choose to add punitive damages to their verdicts. Although they are awarded to victims, punitive damages are designed to punish at-fault drivers.
Punitive Damages Are Capped in Oklahoma
When juries decide to force an at-fault party to pay punitive damages, they must abide by state law. In Oklahoma, punitive damages are capped and can’t exceed the greater of the following amounts:
- The amount of actual damages awarded
Types of Crashes that May Result in Punitive Damages
Drivers and passengers who are injured in crashes caused by other drivers who were following too closely, rolling through stop signs, or looking at their phones typically aren’t eligible for punitive damages. That’s because while the victims were injured because of other people’s negligence, the at-fault drivers’ levels of negligence weren’t excessive.
However, there are a few types of crashes where punitive damages may be warranted.
- Drunk driving crashes: In the eyes of a jury in a civil lawsuit, there’s a big difference between a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% causing a crash and a driver with a BAC of 0.18% causing a crash. The first type of driver broke the law and was negligent, but the second type of driver got behind the wheel while extremely intoxicated and significantly endangered themselves and others. For this reason, people who are injured by extremely intoxicated drivers may be awarded punitive damages.
- Road rage crashes: Everyone gets frustrated or even angry behind the wheel from time to time, especially when someone cuts them off or causes a slowdown. But when drivers let their anger influence their behavior behind the wheel, they can put themselves and others in danger. Punitive damages are often awarded by juries in civil trials where at-fault drivers intentionally tried to damage other drivers’ vehicles or even harm them and their passengers.
- Speed-related and drag-racing crashes: Drivers who cause crashes because they were speeding can be held liable for any damages they cause, while drivers who cause crashes while significantly exceeding the speed limit (for example, going 20+ mph over) may be forced to pay punitive damages, too. Punitive damages are even more likely to be awarded when crashes occur while street or drag racing on a public road.
We Can Help You Get Maximum Compensation After a Crash
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, it’s our goal to help injured victims get every penny they deserve after crashes that weren’t their fault, and that includes punitive damages when applicable. However, because not all crashes warrant punitive damages, and because juries don’t always award them, they aren’t a payment that victims should count on receiving.
Instead, we focus on ensuring our clients get fair compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If insurance companies refuse to pay and we take our clients’ cases to trial, we always emphasize to juries when extreme negligence was displayed by the at-fault parties—and this can lead to punitive damages being awarded.
Contact our Oklahoma car accident lawyers after a crash that wasn’t your fault. We have the experience and resources you need to maximize your financial recovery.