Exploring Punitive Damages in Ohio (And When You Can Get Them)
Our civil system is designed to award money as compensation for damages a person has suffered. In a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include money for medical bills, lost wages, future medical treatment, pain and suffering, and all other harms you may have suffered from.
Punitive damages are available in rare cases when the defendant’s actions were so extreme that the jury decides to punish the defendant and deter others from acting similarly in the future. Unlike the compensatory damages designed to make you whole, punitive damages are not simply based on the amount of harm you have suffered.
In this article, we’re going to have a look at when you can get punitive damages in a personal injury case. At The Henry Law Firm, we are well versed in personal injury law and are adept at determining when punitive damages can be sought. If your case qualifies for punitive damages, we will do everything in our power to secure them for you.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Most personal injury lawsuits focus on compensatory damages. These damages are specifically designed to compensate a plaintiff for any injuries that a defendant caused. However, compensatory damages are not the only type of damages available to some plaintiffs.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are a form of monetary damages awarded to plaintiffs in serious negligence and injury cases (or fraud and deceit).
What Is the Purpose of Punitive Damages?
Now that you hopefully have a much better understanding of what punitive damages are, we can look at the actual purpose of punitive damages.
To Punish Behavior
In most instances, punitive damages are awarded when a jury finds that someone deserves to be punished for their malicious behavior. The courts recognize that one of the most painful things someone can experience during a lawsuit is financial loss. Often the court’s reasoning for awarding punitive damages surrounds the fact that the more money someone loses, the less likely they will be to commit the behavior again.
To Set An Example
Another reason for punitive damages is to set an example for others. As we mentioned before, punitive damages are sometimes exemplary damages. These damages also serve as an excellent example to dissuade others from committing the same egregious behavior as the defendant.
Essentially, when others see how much a defendant has to pay for punitive damages, it dissuades others from contemplating the same behavior. Often punitive damages can be more than compensatory damages depending on the state’s damages caps limits.
At The Henry Law Firm, we help you understand punitive damages as they relate to your case and explain Ohio’s punitive damage caps.
When Can Punitive Damages Be Awarded?
Every personal injury claim requires proof that a defendant was negligent. However, for a plaintiff to state a claim for punitive damages under Ohio law, the plaintiff must establish a level of intent on the defendant’s part.
Ohio law states that punitive damages are only recoverable if a defendant acted with malice or aggravated or egregious fraud. The Ohio Supreme Court has stated that to “act with malice” includes those situations where a defendant consciously disregards the rights and safety of an individual, which conscious disregard is likely to – and does cause – substantial harm to the injured party.
To recover punitive damages against a company, the plaintiff must prove that the company (through its managers or directors) knowingly authorized or ratified the action or omission or participated in the activity that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
If you can prove that the person who caused your injuries did the above, you could have a valid claim to punitive damages in Ohio. However, if the defendant was simply negligent, you won’t be able to claim punitive damages, but you could still seek compensatory damages.
Situations Where Punitive Damages May Be Appropriate
Any time the jury finds that the defendant acted maliciously or with a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of a plaintiff, it may award punitive damages. Some examples may include, but are not limited to:
- A car crash caused by a drunk driver
- A car crash caused by a drag-racing driver
- An investment advisor who steals from his clients
- A business that intentionally chooses not to fix a known hazard on its premises
- A doctor who falsifies his patient’s medical records
- A daycare worker who abuses a child
How Much Punitive Damage Could You Be Awarded?
Like a few other states, Ohio places a cap on the monetary amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. In Ohio, punitive damages are not allowed to equal more than double the compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff.
When the defendant is a small business employer or an individual, punitive damages are not permitted to exceed 10 percent of their net worth up to $350,000.
If the jury awards punitive damages, you may also recover attorney’s fees.
If the jury decides to award punitive damages, it will also have the ability to allow you to recover your attorney’s fees. Attorney fee awards are not subject to the same cap limitations as regular punitive damages. If you have retained an attorney on a contingency fee agreement, an award of attorney’s fees can be a lucrative recovery.
When the jury allows you to recover attorney’s fees, the judge will typically set a separate hearing to determine how much attorney’s fees are warranted. Your lawyer will likely be able to establish that their service warrants several hundred thousand dollars or more. Don’t worry; that money is not all going to your lawyer.
If you recover attorney’s fees on a contingency fee agreement at the Henry Law Firm, that award will still be subject to the same contingency fee as all the other damages. This means you will receive the majority of any attorney’s fees awarded.
Speak With an Ohio Attorney About Punitive Damages
When dealing with serious injuries caused by someone you believe acted maliciously, you must speak with an Ohio personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you establish if the person who caused your injuries owes you punitive damages.
At The Henry Law Firm, we know how challenging it can be to win a punitive damages case because of the higher burden of proof. We have successfully won seven-figure punitive damage recoveries. We will diligently work alongside you to build a case that increases your likelihood of winning punitive damages. When you’re ready to speak with a qualified and reputable attorney, contact the legal team at The Henry Law Firm.