Truck accident personal injury claims usually result in the accident victim (the plaintiff) receiving compensatory damages from the person or company who was at fault for their accident (the defendant). These damages typically cover the plaintiff’s medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses and losses that resulted from the accident. However, in some cases, a plaintiff may receive punitive damages [BL1] as well.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages punish wrongdoers and discourage others from acting in a reckless manner. Punitive damages are awarded in personal injury cases when an individual or company injured someone due to egregious misconduct. Because personal injury cases fall under civil and not criminal law, this punishment is strictly financial in nature (as opposed to probation or jail time).
Another way to look at it is this—compensatory damages focus on the wellbeing of the accident victim whereas punitive damages are aimed at punishing the wrongdoer and to deter the underlying conduct. Depending on the underlying conduct giving rise to the accident, one or both types of these damages may be awarded to the plaintiff.
When Would a Truck Driver or Company Be Charged with Punitive Damages?
A jury may award punitive damages to a truck accident victim if the defendant caused the accident with egregious underlying misconduct. For example, if a truck driver was drunk driving or taking out their road rage on another driver by tailgating or speeding when the accident occurred, punitive damages may be available. Likewise, if a trucking company was hauling an “oversized load” and failed to obtain the necessary “oversized load’ permits through the applicable governmental entity, such conduct could give rise to punitive damages. Another example: if a trucking company knowingly and deliberately required and/or permitted its drivers to operate a commercial vehicle in excess of the legally permitted “driving hours,” such conduct could give rise to punitive damages.
Although punitive damages are not typical in most personal injury cases, they are more common in truck accident lawsuits. Anyone from the truck driver to the loading company can responsible for a truck accident depending on the circumstances. As such, it is always best to consult with a lawyer in your truck accident case.