What Are Punitive Damages in Arizona?
In a personal injury case, most damages are compensatory in nature. This means that a plaintiff is entitled to recover all damages entitled to put him or her back in the same place that they would have been if not for the injury. As an example, if a person is injured in an automobile accident, the person would be entitled to medical expenses, property damage for a totaled vehicle, lost wages, and other associated expenses. Pain and suffering is also compensatory in nature, and a plaintiff would be entitled to receive an amount that a jury determines to be proper for the pain and suffering endured as the result of an injury.
Punitive damages however, are different. The sole purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer for the actions, omissions, or particular course of egregious conduct that was wrongful.
Punitive damages are designed to deter the individual or company and others who may be similarly situated from engaging in similar actions or conduct in the future. The message that jurors seek to send to defendants is that “your conduct will not be tolerated, and if you engage in this type of behavior, you will be punished.”
What Types of Damages in Arizona are Subject to an Award of Punitive Damages?
In Arizona, certain types of lawsuits are eligible for punitive damages including:
- Insurance bad faith. An award of damages in an Arizona insurance bad faith case is a good example of punitive damages. Insurance companies need to fear that if they do not act appropriately, they will be penalized heavily beyond what they otherwise would owe. If this were not the case, insurance companies would likely routinely deny most claims, because they would know that if they were taken to court, their only punishment would be to pay what they otherwise legitimately owed.
- Reckless and outrageous conduct. Most types of behavior that lead to injury are what is termed “ordinary negligence.” Stated differently, in most cases a person who causes a traffic accident did not set out with the intent to act in a highly reckless manner in which it was likely that an accident would result. Instead, most traffic accidents are a result of driver inattention, rather than a course of reckless disregard for the safety of others.
In some cases, however, drivers engage in courses of conduct that are highly likely to result in injury or death. Drag racing on a busy street, driving with defective brakes, and other similar courses of conduct may go beyond ordinary negligence.
Asking for an Award of Punitive Damages
When there’s a reasonable basis to do so, I will ask for an award of punitive damages from a jury. In many cases, particularly in situations involving businesses, the only message that will deter future outrageous conduct is a significant award of punitive damages. Punitive damages send a strong message to defendants, and to others in society that may be acting recklessly, to change.
Please Call Me to Find Out About Whether Punitive Damages May Be Recoverable in Your Case.
I offer a free, no obligation consultation so that you can ask me any questions that you might have concerning your case. Once I learn about the facts and circumstances of your case, I can advise you as to how I and my firm will proceed if we are retained. We accept personal injury and insurance bad faith cases on a contingency fee basis. As a result, you will not owe us any fees unless and until we recover for you.
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