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What Are Punitive Damages and Why Are They So Important?

By Matthew Golitko on August 12, 2014

A close up of a dollar billHere at Golitko & Daly, we believe in helping workers and their families. Our construction accident attorneys will never buckle in the face of big business or other parties of influence. That's why so many accident victims and their loved ones have come to our firm. Our knowledge of Indiana labor law and workplace injury statutes makes us powerful allies to the injured, and we will always seek just damages against those who have caused a serious accident to befall one of their workers.

The issue of damages has come up a fair amount among out clients lately. We would like to go over some of the basics of punitive damages as they are often misunderstood by the public at large.

About Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are sought in a civil lawsuit in excess of compensatory damages. They are typically awarded in order to punish the negligent party and further award the victim(s) given the nature of the accident.

How Punitive Damages Differ from Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages refer to a monetary award that is based on the actual losses experienced in the case, such as medical bills, damaged property, lost wages, lost future earnings, and so forth. Pain and suffering is assessed in this as well.

Punitive damages are not technically linked to actual losses but are tabulated to account for matters that go beyond these material losses. The nature of the offense will often define the nature of the punitive damages.

Assessing the Amount of Punitive Damages

When assessing punitive damages in a legal case, there are different ways to go about it. For one, lawyers and legal professionals may look at cases with similar circumstances as those that their client was involved in. These serve as a good general guideline when seeking punitive damages.

Ultimately, punitive damages are assessed by consider the nature of the case and how egregious or negligent the offense was. If the negligent party was a large construction company or contracting company and the incident endangered many people, the punitive damages may be especially high.

An Example of Punitive Damages In Action

Say that a major crane accident occurs that results in the deaths of three construction workers. Compensatory damages will cover the funerary costs, pain and suffering, and lost earnings of those workers, helping the families of these victims cover actual losses associated with their deaths.

If the crane accident was the result of negligent practices by the construction company, poor maintenance of the crane, and/or overloading the weight capacity of the crane, these kinds of actions do not have a monetary value attached to them even though they demonstrate negligence. A full assessment of the case and company's history may reveal a history of OSHA and IOSHA violations that have made the company especially dangerous to their workers. This irresponsibility cannot go unpunished.

Punitive damages are sought in order to address such matters, and they will be awarded to the loved ones of the deceased to help them with the grieving and morning process and allow them an ability to move forward with their lives. In addition, these punitive damages will send a message to others in the industry, letting them know that negligent actions such as this will not be tolerated and have serious consequences. There is the potential to reform the industry and make things better for people in the future.

Speak with Our Team of Construction Attorneys

For more information about your options following a serious injury or accident, it is of the utmost importance that you contact our construction accident and workplace injury attorneys today. The legal team at Golitko & Daly is here to help you in your time of legal need.

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