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Punitive Damages in Kentucky Personal Injury Cases

Punitive Damages in Kentucky Personal Injury Cases

Experiencing a personal injury is always difficult. It may require you to undergo painful and expensive medical treatments, and you could suffer from emotional damage. If you suffered from a personal injury that resulted from the negligence or deliberate action of another person, you may be entitled to punitive damages.

In standard personal injury cases, injured people usually recover compensatory damages for the expenses associated with their injury. For example, a person who suffered from a broken leg due to a car accident caused by a negligent driver may recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and these damages compensate the victim. Punitive damages, on the other hand, extend beyond compensation.

In this blog, you’ll learn about punitive damages in Kentucky, including how courts calculate punitive damages and punitive damage limitations.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are a rare and special category of damages in personal injury cases. They extend beyond personal injury compensation and are specifically designed to punish the defendant for gross negligence or intentional harm inflicted against the plaintiff.

Because punitive damages are about punishing the defendant rather than rewarding compensation to the victim, people need to prove that the defendant’s behavior was contemptible. If you seek punitive damages against a defendant, you and your lawyer need to prove that the person engaged in one of the following behaviors when you were injured:

  • Malice: Malice means that the defendant either intentionally inflicted injuries against the victim, or clearly disregarded the rights and safety of the victim, resulting in the injury.
  • Oppression: Oppression means that the defendant engaged in an action that was cruel against the plaintiff, causing them to suffer. Although malice implies that the defendant intentionally inflicted harm or willfully disregarded the plaintiff’s safety, oppression doesn’t inherently mean the action was intentional.
  • Fraud: Fraud means that the defendant willfully concealed information or actively deceived the victim in order to inflict harm.

When courts award punitive damages in Kentucky for personal injuries, it’s usually because the defendant engaged in malice, especially in car accidents. For example, a court may consider a driver’s behavior malicious if they disregarded the rights and safety of others on the road by driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

How Does Kentucky Calculate Punitive Damages in Kentucky Personal Injury Cases?

As we mentioned above, punitive damages are not awarded to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant. This means that courts do not calculate punitive damages based on compensation. Court juries determine the punitive damages awarded to the victim, and they take the following considerations into account:

  • The defendant’s assets
  • The defendant’s level of awareness that they could inflict harm
  • The victim’s emotional and physical injuries
  • If punishing the defendant will prevent them from causing future harm
  • The defendant’s behavior when they injured the plaintiff
  • The defendant’s actions after they realized they had harmed the plaintiff
  • If the defendant profited from inflicting harm
  • The length of time of the defendant’s negligence or willful harmful behavior and whether they hid it from the plaintiff

After taking all of these factors into consideration, the jury will determine the amount the plaintiff will receive in punitive damages.

Kentucky Punitive Damage Limitations

Some states put limitations in place for the amount a plaintiff can receive in punitive damages from the defendant. In Kentucky, there is no cap on damages. Additionally, personal injury victims can seek both punitive damages and compensatory damages against the defendant. When damages are compensatory, they compensate the plaintiff. Compensatory damages may include:

  • Property damage
  • Vehicle repair
  • Past and future medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional trauma
  • Decrease in quality of life
  • Wages lost
  • Loss of future earnings

Do I Need a Lawyer to Seek Punitive Damages in Kentucky Personal Injury Cases?

It’s far rarer for a plaintiff to receive punitive damages than compensatory damages. To receive punitive damages, you need to prove in court that the defendant was grossly negligent or intentionally harmed you, and it’s often challenging to prove either.

When you hire a skilled personal injury attorney, they’ll help you determine your best course of action when seeking damages. They’ll advise you whether or not to seek both compensatory and punitive damages.

Hiring a personal injury attorney greatly increases your chances of receiving compensatory and punitive damages because personal injury attorneys have expertise in gathering proof of your claim and convincing the court that you physically, emotionally, and/or financially suffer because of the actions of the defendant. Working with a skilled personal injury lawyer will also ensure that you maximize the amount you’ll receive from the defendant.

For personal injury guidance you can count on in central Kentucky, contact McCoy & Sparks Attorneys at Law. Our personal injury attorneys have years of experience helping Kentucky residents receive the compensatory and punitive damages they deserved for their injuries. Call our office at 844-459-9467, or click here to schedule a free case consultation online.