Under certain circumstances, you can get punitive damages in your Birmingham personal injury case. However, it is rare because only a jury in a civil court can award punitive damages. You will need to discuss your options and pursue them with a personal injury law firm in Birmingham.
In this blog, we will help you understand more about punitive damages and when Birmingham courts award them. We also offer free consultations for those hurt in personal injury incidents who are considering pursuing compensation.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages penalize the at-fault party for their wrongdoing. They are designed to deter both the liable party and others from taking similar malicious, negligent, reckless, or intentional actions.
Punitive damages do not compensate victims for their injuries, losses, or expenses. Those are compensatory damages, which are available in most personal injury cases. In contrast, the value of punitive damages is based on the severity of the defendant’s bad behavior.
In cases where injuries occurred because of a mistake, punitive damages are not commonly awarded. This is why these damages are relatively rare in personal injury cases.
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When Are Punitive Damages Possible in a Personal Injury Case?
Before a plaintiff can recover punitive damages, their legal team must present evidence that gross negligence occurred and the defendant was responsible. This most commonly occurs:
- When a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes a crash
- In dangerous drug cases, when the company knew the risks and didn’t tell anyone
- In product liability cases, when the manufacturer knew of injuries but continued to market the product
- In other mass tort cases with irresponsible defendants
- When injuries occur because of an intentional act
A personal injury attorney can assess your case and determine if they believe you should file a lawsuit and pursue punitive damages. The money recoverable through punitive damages can be substantial, so it is important to speak with an experienced attorney that can guide you through this legal process.
Punitive Damages Are Available in Wrongful Death Cases in Alabama
While it may seem counterintuitive, since punitive damages are rare in personal injury cases, they are the only type of damages available in wrongful death actions filed under Ala. Code § 6-5-410.
In most states, the surviving family member or heirs of a wrongful death victim can file a lawsuit and recover compensatory damages such as lost income, final expenses, medical bills, loss of services, pain and suffering, and more. However, this is not allowed in Alabama. Only punitive damages are available in Alabama wrongful death cases.
The Supreme Court of Alabama reaffirmed this in Hall v. Coastal Anesthesia, P.C. in 2012. If your loved one died in a negligence accident in Alabama, a Birmingham wrongful death attorney from our team may be able to help you build a strong case and recover punitive damages.
Building Your Case for Punitive Damages
Since recovering punitive damages requires navigating the civil lawsuit process, your first step will be discussing your options with a trial attorney who regularly takes these cases to court. They can manage the process of gathering evidence and showing the jury:
- The accused party was grossly negligent
- Their wanton carelessness or reckless behavior caused your injuries
- You suffered harm—physically, emotionally, and financially
Your attorney can ask for compensatory and punitive damages.
Alabama law generally gives most victims two years to file a lawsuit under Ala. Code § 6-2-38. If you do not file your complaint in the appropriate civil court before the second anniversary of the accident, you will likely lose your opportunity to do so.
In some cases, this deadline may be even shorter. Your lawyer can help you define the specific deadline in your situation.
Discuss Your Case With a Lawyer From Morris Bart & Associates, LLC Today
The Morris Bart law office in Birmingham has an attorney available who can talk about your personal injury case for free today. Our injury lawyers regularly pursue and recover damages for clients in Alabama. Connect with us today to learn more.
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