Are Punitive Damages Possible in a California Car Accident Case?

July 3, 2019

When you are injured in a car accident in California and someone else is responsible for the collision, you have the right to file a car accident lawsuit against the liable party and obtain compensation for any damages you’ve experienced. Usually, the first thing you’ll be worried about is covering your medical expenses and any other financial losses you’ve suffered.

What many injured victims are happy to find out is that their attorney can help them win other damages for the ways in which the accident has affected their lifestyle. These damages are known as non-economic damages. Both economic and non-economic damages are common in car accident lawsuits, but punitive damages are awarded only in rare circumstances.

At Kohan & Bablove, Injury Attorneys, we’ve helped clients recover all sorts of damages from their cases. If you believe you should be awarded punitive damages after a wreck, an Orange County car accident lawyer from our team can investigate your accident and negotiate on your behalf in the courtroom.

How Punitive Damages Differ from Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages is the overarching term used for both economic and non-economic damages.

Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in that they can only be awarded by a judge and they’re only awarded in circumstances where the defendant has shown particularly harmful behavior or blatant negligence. Often, a judge will award punitive damages in order to set an example.

California’s Law on Punitive Damages

California’s law on punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, is stated in California Civil Code Section 3294. The code states that punitive damages can only be awarded when the defendant is proven guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice with clear and convincing evidence. It also says these damages will be awarded for the sake of example or as a way of punishing the defendant.

The code defines malice as intentional injury to a person or disgraceful behavior with a deliberate disregard for safety. The code defines oppression as disgraceful behavior that subjects a person to cruel and unjust suffering with mindful disregard to the person’s rights.

When Punitive Damages May Be Awarded for Car Accidents

In order for punitive damages to be awarded in a car accident in California, the accident needs to be severe and the negligent driver needs to be proven particularly harmful in their actions.

For example, if you’re hit by a drunk driver who’s facing their second or third DUI offense, punitive damages may be awarded. If your accident was caused by a driver who experienced a fit of road rage and cut you off, then this would also be considered malicious and may be eligible for punitive damages.

Reach Out to an Orange County Car Accident Attorney

An investigation of your car accident will need to be performed in order to determine whether blatant negligence occurred. If the negligence can’t be considered oppressive, fraudulent, or malicious under the law, you’ll still have a chance of receiving compensatory damages for your wreck.

At Kohan & Bablove, Injury Attorneys, we’ll do our best to maximize your claim and convince the judge that you deserve this recompense. If you’d like to speak with an Orange County car accident lawyer about your case, call 1-844-404-2400 or fill out the contact form below to schedule a no-obligation consultation.