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Punitive damages in trucking accident cases

On behalf of Noland Law Firm, LLC posted in truck accidents on Monday, December 7, 2015.

In our last post, we mentioned that violations of state and federal safety rules can be a means of demonstrating negligence in truck accident cases for those who suffer serious injury in these accidents. We also noted that such violations can also provide a basis for a punitive damages award. Here, we’ll take a closer look at this issue.                               

Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages in that they are not intended to compensate the victim for either economic or non-economic losses, but rather to punish the negligent party in a civil context. Ordinarily punitive measures are left to criminal law, but punitive damages are an exception. 

An important point to highlight about punitive damages is that they are not available in just any case, but only cases where the defendant acted in reckless disregard for the safety or rights of others. Missouri courts require a showing that the defendant knew or should have known that there was a high probability that his or her actions would result in injury.

The burden of proof required to establish entitlement to punitive damages is “clear and convincing evidence.” This is a higher standard than the ordinary civil standard of preponderance of the evidence, but it is less than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a future post, we’ll continue looking at the topic of punitive damages, particularly limitations on punitive damages and the process leading up to an award of punitive damages.

Source: Missouri Bar Association, “Chapter 1: Damages Generally,” from a publication authored by Sandra J. Wunderlich, Accessed Dec. 7, 2015. 

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