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When Are Punitive Damages Available in an Illinois Injury Case?

Posted on in Personal Injury

Winnebago County personal injury attorneysDamages are the financial and nonfinancial losses incurred as the result of an injury or death caused by another party’s negligence or wrongful act. “Compensatory damages” refers to the compensation an injured person receives for things like medical bills and lost wages. However, it is possible for a claimant in a personal injury case to receive “punitive damages” as well. Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are above and beyond the compensation an injured person would typically receive and are only awarded in certain circumstances.

Illinois Law Regarding Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for actions that are exceptionally negligent or wrongful. The additional compensation awarded to the injured party serves as a deterrent against similar actions in the future. Illinois law states that punitive damages are awarded when a defendant's behavior was with “evil motive” or careless disregard for the risk of harm to others. The plaintiff in an injury claim must show that the defendant’s actions were sufficiently malicious or reckless to warrant punitive damages by “clear and convincing evidence." This burden of proof is much harder to satisfy than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Consequently, successfully recovering punitive damages after being injured by another party’s behavior will require the plaintiff to build a robust, evidence-based case.

Types of Injury Cases in Which Punitive Damages May Be Awarded

Illinois plaintiffs may pursue punitive damages for cases involving:

  • Bodily Injury
  • Property damage
  • Product liability

Punitive damages may be awarded in a car accident injury claim if the defendant was driving in a manner that put the safety and rights of other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians in serious danger. Cases involving hit-and-run car accidents and accidents caused by drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs often involve a claim for punitive damages. Punitive damages may also be awarded in premises liability cases and product liability cases. In the famous “hot coffee lawsuit,” Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants, the jury awarded punitive damages to the injured plaintiff because they believed that the restaurant’s actions showed consistently callous indifference for customers’ safety. In Illinois, punitive damages are not available in wrongful death claims or in cases involving medical malpractice or legal malpractice.

Contact a Rockford Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, contact Mannarino & Brasfield, A Division of KJS to discuss your legal options for pursuing financial compensation. Call our office at 815-215-7561 today and schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Winnebago County personal injury lawyer.

 

Sources:

https://courts.illinois.gov/CircuitCourt/CivilJuryInstructions/35.00.pdf

https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=073500050K2-1115.05

https://www.rd.com/article/hot-coffee-lawsuit/

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