In the most serious car crashes, many people fear that the compensation they can receive is not sufficient for the at-fault driver to "learn their lesson." Perhaps they were driving drunk at the time of the crash or otherwise engaging in extraordinarily negligent actions. While some states account for economic and non-economic damages in claims, can it go further?
This is where punitive damages come into play.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are special damages that may be awarded in car accident cases if the court finds that the at-fault driver acted with malice or negligence. Punitive damages are a form of punishment and serve to deter similar misconduct from other drivers in the future.
To be eligible for punitive damages, you will need to prove certain elements:
- The at-fault driver acted especially recklessly, willfully, intentionally, or with gross negligence.
- The conduct must be so extreme that it proves malice on the part of the defendant.
The amount of punitive damages awarded is typically based on the nature and severity of the misconduct. Although these damages are intended to punish and deter, you should remember that punitive damages cannot restore your physical and emotional losses.
How Punitive Damages Work in Utah
Under Utah Code 78B-8-201, punitive damages may only be awarded when "compensatory or general damages are awarded and it is established by clear and convincing evidence that the acts or omissions of the tortfeasor are the result of willful and malicious or intentionally fraudulent conduct, or conduct that manifests a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of, the rights of others."
Furthermore, the state allows for $50,000 to be awarded solely to the injured party; however, any amount greater than $50,000 will be divided between the state and the injured party. You can learn more about how these are awarded here.
Have Questions? Call Our Salt Lake City Firm
The team at Steele Adams Hosman is dedicated to pursuing the highest compensation possible in your case. We believe that you have a right to compensation when someone’s negligent actions cause you harm. If you are ready to pursue your car accident claim, call (801) 999-1506 to learn how we can help.