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When are Punitive Damages Available in a California Personal Injury Claim?

punitive damage, personal injury claim, california personal injury claim

Most personal injury claims are intended to compensate a victim in order to get them as close as possible to their state of being prior to an accident. However, in California the law allows for personal injury victims to collect additional compensation, known as punitive damages, in certain situations when the actions of those responsible are particularly egregious. If you have been injured in the Los Angeles area, the knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Andrew Ritholz are here to help. Call or contact the office today to schedule a consultation.

What are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are money awarded to a personal injury victim that goes above and beyond the compensatory damages for the harm caused in an accident. Unlike compensatory damages, which are meant to put the injured victim back in the same place they were prior to the accident, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer and serve as a deterrent to others who would consider similar actions. Punitive damages are added to the compensatory damages in a personal injury case.

Punitive Damages Standard

In California, a personal injury victim may be entitled to punitive damages in certain situations. If the injuries in the case were caused by malice, oppression, or fraud and the victim can prove it by clear and convincing evidence they may receive punitive damages. Malice refers to an intent to cause harm or actions that were done with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others. Oppression refers to despicable conduct that subjects the victim to cruel and undue hardship with a conscious disregard for that person’s rights, and fraud refers to conduct that constitutes an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment that is made with the intention of causing harm to the victim.

The clear and convincing evidence standard means that an injury victim must be able to prove malice, oppression, or fraud with a high degree of probability that it occurred in order to collect punitive damages. This is a higher standard than proving something by a preponderance of the evidence but a lower standard than the criminal standard of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced personal injury attorney can explain what is required to prove malice, oppression, or fraud in your case. 

Other Compensation Awarded

In addition to punitive damages, personal injury victims are also entitled to compensatory damages for their injuries. Economic damages cover all out of pocket expenses, such as lost wages, medical bills, property damage, and the loss of future income and benefits. Noneconomic damages compensate a victim for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, disfigurement, and for their loss of enjoyment of life. To learn more about what your case might be worth, talk to our office today.

Call or Contact Us Now

If you believe that you were hurt through malice, oppression, or fraud in the Los Angeles area you may be entitled to compensatory and punitive damages in your personal injury case. Call the office or contact us today at the Law Offices of Andrew Ritholz to learn more. 

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