Truck accidents can have devastating consequences. They change many people’s lives forever; and, sadly, a significant percentage of these accidents are fatal. If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one, you understandably want to hold the trucking company accountable to the fullest extent possible. So, can you seek punitive damages? Columbus truck accident lawyer Ed Malek explains:
Understanding the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages
To begin, it is important to distinguish between compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to make you whole (to the extent possible). When you hire a Columbus truck accident lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will seek compensatory damages for all of the financial and non-financial losses you suffer as a result of the accident. This includes losses such as medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional trauma—among others.
Punitive damages, in contrast, are intended to punish the party that is responsible for your losses. They are not available in all cases. When punitive damages are available, they are not calculated based solely on your losses. Instead, they are based on factors such as the severity of the at-fault party’s conduct, the likelihood that severe harm would result from the at-fault party’s conduct, and the totality of the harm caused.
It is also important to note that punitive damages are capped under Ohio law. In most cases, the maximum amount a truck accident victim or family can receive in punitive damages is the lesser of:
- Two times the victim’s or family’s compensatory damages, or
- The maximum punitive damages award of $350,000.
When Can You Seek Punitive Damages for a Truck Accident
As mentioned above, punitive damages are not available in all cases. So, when can you seek punitive damages for a truck accident in Ohio?
Generally speaking, there are three circumstances in which punitive damages are available to truck accident victims and their families. These are:
- The at-fault party (i.e., the truck driver or trucking company) was grossly negligent,
- The at-fault party acted with gross disregard for the safety of others, and
- The at-fault party acted with intent to cause harm.
Driving under the influence of drugs, road rage, and intentionally ignoring Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations are three examples of conduct that may meet one or more of these standards. There are other possibilities as well. As with liability for compensatory damages, liability for punitive damages is judged on a case-by-case basis, and seeking punitive damages requires clear evidence of the at-fault party’s wrongful conduct.
Request a Free Consultation with a Columbus Truck Accident Lawyer
If you need to know more about pursuing a claim for punitive damages after a truck accident in Ohio, we encourage you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at Malek & Malek Law Firm. To arrange an in-person or remote consultation as soon as possible, please call 888-444-7440 or tell us how we can reach you online now.