If you’ve been hurt in an accident in the state of Illinois, the responsible party should compensate you for your injuries. Funds paid to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit are called damages.
Most of the damages available to an injured plaintiff are compensatory damages, which aim to compensate an injury victim for the various losses suffered as a result of an accident. However, Illinois law sometimes allows a plaintiff to seek an additional type of compensation in a personal injury case—punitive damages.
Although punitive damages aren’t available in every type of personal injury claim in Illinois, they are often awarded when a defendant’s actions are particularly egregious.
Punitive damages can drastically increase the compensation a plaintiff recovers in a personal injury case. Therefore, it is important to understand whether you, as a personal injury victim, may be able to seek such damages from the defendant in your case.
In this article, we examine punitive damages in Illinois.
What Are Punitive Damages?
After an accident in Illinois, the responsible individual may be liable for the plaintiff’s damages. Common damages in a personal injury lawsuit include lost income, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. These types of damages are designed to repay an accident victim for their actual losses stemming from the accident.
Punitive damages, however, aim to punish a defendant for egregious behavior. In addition, punitive damages are intended to deter future poor behavior and hold defendants responsible for their actions.
In other words, punitive damages aren’t assessed in cases involving simple negligence. Rather, a court may impose such damages when a defendant’s reckless or intentional behavior harms a plaintiff in some way.
And although a punitive damages award is intended to punish the defendant, this money still goes to the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Therefore, if a plaintiff is injured due to a defendant’s intentional or grossly reckless wrongdoing, they may receive significantly more compensation than what is necessary to compensate for their actual losses.
When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Illinois?
Juries in personal injury lawsuits are provided with instructions that explain when punitive damages are appropriate. Pursuant to these instructions, a jury in a personal injury case is permitted to award a plaintiff punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct meets certain requirements.
Specifically, a defendant’s fraudulent, reckless, or intentional conduct is grounds for awarding punitive damages to a plaintiff. In addition, the defendant’s conduct must have directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
When determining whether to award punitive damages to an injured plaintiff in a personal injury case in Illinois, the jury must consider the following factors:
- The facts of the case
- The defendant’s conduct
- The plaintiff’s financial vulnerability
- The length of time of the defendant’s misconduct
- The nature of the harm experienced by the plaintiff
- Whether the defendant attempted to hide their behavior
- The potential harm and actual harm caused by the defendant’s conduct
- The finances required to punish the defendant and prevent future egregious behavior considering the defendant’s financial situation
The court may consider other factors, depending on the circumstances of the case.
How to Obtain Punitive Damages
In most cases, punitive damages are obtained through a trial. The reason for this is that, as explained above, it is the jury’s job to determine the amount of punitive damages that are appropriate in a given personal injury case.
However, when a plaintiff’s attorney negotiates a settlement with a defendant out of court, it is typical for the settlement amount sought to consider any punitive damages that could be awarded were the case to go to trial.
Contact a Naperville Personal Injury Lawyer To Discuss Whether You May Be Entitled to Punitive Damages in Illinois
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Illinois, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. Contact us at the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid for a free initial consultation with a skilled Illinois lawyer that helps value your compensatory damages and to see if punitive damages may be available in your personal injury case. Call us at (630) 428-4040.