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What Are Punitive Damages?

Published: May 15, 2018 in Legal Blog, Personal Injury

If you can prove that another individual or group injured you through reckless, willful, or wanton conduct, you may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the person responsible for your accident and deter others from acting similarly in the future.

If you have been injured in an accident that was the result of someone else’s negligence, contact a Belleville personal injury lawyer today. We’ll evaluate your case and inform you whether you may be able to collect punitive damages. Contact us at (618) 767-6293 to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Definition of Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not recoverable in every case. They are only an option when the other party has demonstrated gross negligence, recklessness, or conduct that was intentionally harmful. If you were injured in an incident based on simple negligence, you are not entitled to punitive damages. Under Illinois law, you may only secure punitive damages if the other party’s actions were reckless, willful or wanton.

Additionally, you may only recover punitive damages once you have obtained compensatory damages for your injuries. Punitive damages cannot be awarded alone, and are typically not accounted for in a settlement. In most cases, you will need to secure a court judgment or jury verdict before punitive damages can be awarded.

How Much are Punitive Damages?

The jury in your personal injury case will determine how much punitive damages you may be awarded. They will consider the severity of the defendant’s actions in addition to how reprehensible they acted to determine how much money is appropriate in your situation.

While Illinois does not place a limit on punitive damages in ordinary personal injury cases, a defendant does have the right to appeal a punitive damages amount if they believe it is unfair. The specific facts of your case will determine whether you may be awarded hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars in punitive damages.

How $80 Million of Punitive Damages Were Awarded in a Johnson & Johnson Case

Recently, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $80 million in punitive damages because the well-known pharmaceutical company acted with reckless indifference to the safety of others in selling talcum powder that contained asbestos and caused a man to develop mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that can develop in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart.

The plaintiff experienced asbestos exposure from Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder from the time he was an infant to 2003. He explained that he used two to three large bottles of this product every month and was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma in 2016.

The New Jersey jury awarded the plaintiff and his wife $80 million in punitive damages in addition to the $37 million in compensatory damages they had already received.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer at The Cates Law Firm, LLC

Punitive damages are not available in every Illinois personal injury case. However, your case may be an exception. If you’re wondering whether punitive damages are applicable to your situation, reach out to The Cates Law Firm, LLC today at (618) 767-6293, or reach out through our convenient online form.