Punitive damages are monetary damages that are awarded in some special cases, were the court feels that the defendant needs to be awarded with an extra punishment. These are usually awarded on top of the damages that are awarded as a compensation for the victims. These damages are meant as a punishment for the guilty party and hence the name, “punitive” damages.
What are punitive damages?
It has already been mentioned that punitive damages are meant as a punishment for the defendants. These damages are awarded to deter any future wrongdoers. It is not meant to compensate for the losses suffered by the victim. Determining the punitive damages in a case is a difficult process. In most cases, the determination of such punitive damages has lead to widespread discontent.
There are some basic concepts that the court keeps in mind before deciding upon the punitive damages that are to be awarded in a particular case. Here are some points that the courts use in order to determine the amount that the defendants are required to pay as punitive damages in a case.
Degree of seriousness of the defendant’s act is one of the most basic criteria for determining the punitive damages that are involved in a case. If a person tries to sell a health supplement that resulted in the patient contracting a deadly disease, then that person would have to pay up a bigger punitive damage than a person who sold a partially repainted car as new.
Another guideline that is usually followed by courts to determine the punitive damages are the ratio to compensatory damages. If the damages that were awarded as compensation for the losses were high enough, then there is a chance that the punitive damages can reach an even higher figure.
The courts will refer to past cases and conducts for calculating a reasonable punitive damage. There will be similar acts and conducts that occurred long ago and the courts can refer to them for comparing the present case that they are working on. By comparing past cases and conducts, the court will be able to reach a decision regarding the punitive damages.
So, if anyone was to ask you, “what are punitive damages?”, I am sure that you will have a good answer to come up with. These points on punitive damages will help you in understanding about a complex part of the legal system in our country.