What Are Punitive Damages & Why Do They Matter In Personal Injury Lawsuits In South Carolina?

March 28, 2023

Most people envision a simple payout for medical costs and any lost wages when thinking of a personal injury lawsuit. However, there’s much more to it. If a person is found at fault for the accident, they could also be on the hook for punitive damages.

But what exactly are punitive damages, and how can they influence the award in a personal injury lawsuit?

And of course, you must also factor in the role of a competent Columbia auto accident lawyer from the Connell Law Firm in ensuring that justice is served.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are used to punish the offender and discourage future wrongdoing.

They are in addition to compensatory damages intended to compensate the victim. Punitive damages may be granted in South Carolina in circumstances of purposeful or wanton carelessness, fraud, or other intentional misconduct.

These damages are not available in every personal injury lawsuit. They are only given where the defendant’s behavior is especially egregious.

You are entitled to punitive damages if you have been damaged due to someone’s carelessness or intentional misconduct.

It’s best to let expert Columbia personal injury attorneys help you understand your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.

How Do Punitive Damages Affect the Payout for a Personal Injury Lawsuit In South Carolina?

Punitive damages punish the wrongdoers and signal that their behavior will not be accepted. They may be given in personal injury lawsuits in South Carolina if the at-fault party acts with gross carelessness or reckless disdain for the safety of others.

A reckless disregard for the safety of others is characterized as gross negligence. Speeding, driving under the influence, texting while driving, or any other action that displays a blatant disregard for the safety of others falls under this category.

Punitive damages may be assessed up to three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is larger.

So, if you receive $100,000 in real damages, the maximum amount you may receive in punitive damages is $500,000. If you receive $200,000 in real damages, the maximum punitive damages you may receive are $600,000, which is three times the actual damages of $200,000.

Punitive damages can significantly enhance the amount of money you receive from your personal injury claim (if your case goes to court), therefore, it is critical to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.

Gross negligence can result in punitive damages.

The Main Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Two damages can be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit: compensatory and punitive. Punitive penalties are designed to penalize the guilty party and prevent future wrongdoing, whereas compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim for their losses.

Punitive damages may be assessed in South Carolina, where the defendant’s acts were purposeful, wanton, or reckless. For example, if the defendant was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if they purposefully ignored safety warnings, they may face disciplinary measures.

In South Carolina, compensatory damages are available to plaintiffs who have suffered a loss or injury due to the negligence of another party. These damages are meant to restore the plaintiff to the position he or she would have been in if the negligent party had not acted negligently.

Compensatory damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

The severity of the defendant’s acts and the degree of the victim’s injuries will determine the amount of punitive or compensatory damages imposed. Punitive penalties can even exceed $1 million in rare situations.

Are There Limits to Punitive Damages?

A defendant’s financial situation is inadmissible while determining compensatory damages.

In contrast, while determining the proper amount to award for punitive damages, the jury is expected to consider the defendant’s wealth or financial status.

Wealthy or corporate wrongdoers often face more significant punitive damages penalties than less wealthy defendants, because it will require more to discourage similar behavior in the future.

Examples of Cases Where Courts May Award Punitive Damages

A drunk driving case is a typical example of a claim or litigation that may result in a punitive award. If the driver opted to become drunk and then go behind the wheel of a car, they would plainly be endangering other people on the road.

Their acts would be reckless, and they would be liable in South Carolina for punitive damages. Furthermore, if a bar or restaurant served them alcohol and then allowed them to leave on their own, the business may be held accountable.

Other examples of a defendant’s careless or deliberate conduct that displays an obvious disregard for the safety of others include:

  • A trucking company purposefully altered its records in an attempt to conceal how many hours its driver had worked in a row (and how exhausted they would’ve been when they lost concentration and crashed into someone’s car).
  • A company that knew its product was dangerous but chose to withhold certain information to get the product on the market.
  • A hospital that brushes a doctor’s repeated acts of malpractice under the rug.

Time to Get Help From Experienced Columbia Personal Injury Lawyers

Statutes regulate how much time an injured person has after being harmed to initiate a lawsuit. In general, the statute of limitations for commencing a personal injury action in South Carolina is three years from the date of the injury.

Thus, it is critical to file a personal injury case as soon as possible, as a court would not examine a complaint filed after the three-year statute of limitations.

Our Columbia personal injury attorneys at the Connell Law Firm would be eager to assist you if you have been injured in a vehicle accident and get you the compensation you deserve. If matters go to court and there’s ground for claiming punitive damages, we’ll surely work on that as well.

Reach out to us now for a free consultation!