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WHAT ARE PUNITIVE DAMAGES?

If you’ve been hurt in a car accident or lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident, you may be thinking if punitive damages are available in your case.

Punitive damages are commonly discussed when personal injury cases are addressed.  Punitive damages are generally awarded if a defendant is found to have behaved in an extremely negligent or dangerous manner. The attorneys at Bellotti Law Group P.C. aim to provide an analysis of punitive damages in Massachusetts cases.

Damages under Massachusetts Law

Economic damages, which include medical costs, ongoing medical care, lost earnings, and failure to receive potential income, and non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering, loss of pleasure, and disfigurement, are two main forms of damages that an injured person may recover through legal action under Massachusetts law.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages, also described as exemplary damages, exist to punish an individual or company for wrongdoing that has caused harm to another person, as well as to prevent potential misconduct. Punitive damages are based on the idea that, in some cases, merely compensating a victim for their losses is insufficient. The law expresses what we all clearly understand in our daily lives: that there is a level of wrongdoing that, if proven, warrants both punishment and avoidance of potential misconduct.

Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party and the public at large by punitive means to deter similar conduct in the future. They are designed for at-fault parties that engage in the most extreme and outrageous acts. Punitive damages are only applicable in Massachusetts if they are permitted by statute.

Are punitive damages always available in Massachusetts?

Punitive damages can be awarded in civil cases depending on the situation. Many people are unaware that in most Massachusetts personal injury claims in Massachusetts, punitive damages are not applicable. This stems from an old Massachusetts statute that did not allow for punitive damages, regardless of how reckless the conduct was or how serious the injuries were. That law is still in force today. In Massachusetts, even an intoxicated driver of an explosive truck who crosses a red light and strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk, paralyzing them, is not liable for punitive damages.

If an individual or corporation’s gross negligence, deliberate or wanton conduct results in a death, punitive damages are provided in Massachusetts. A jury must ultimately decide if a person’s or company’s conduct rises to the level from negligence to gross negligence. If the jury determines gross negligence and that it resulted in a death, it can award both damages to the victim and his or her family, as well as punitive damages to punish and prevent the conduct that resulted in the wrongful death.

Contact our Massachusetts Injury Attorneys

A professional attorney can inform you if your case includes the prospect of punitive damages so that you can maximize your claim. Because of their circumstantial nature, punitive damages in personal injury cases are a grey area of the law. Contact the attorneys at Bellotti Law Group P.C. to see how these considerations apply to your case in Massachusetts.

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