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What are punitive damages?

In the context of a car accident, successful lawsuits usually result in compensation for the plaintiff. Typically, the plaintiff will be awarded “compensatory damages” intended to address the injuries they suffered because of the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing. In the language of the court, the purpose of compensatory damages is to make the victim “whole again.”

However, in rare situations, the court will grant damages that exceed what’s necessary to make the plaintiff whole with the objective of punishing the defendant. These are known as punitive damages.

Punitive damages often result in more compensation for the plaintiff, but they’re only awarded under very certain circumstances in Arizona.

How are punitive damages awarded?

In Arizona, there is no statute delineating a standard for punitive damages; rather, the standards have been outlined and fleshed out by the courts overtime.

According to the courts, for punitive damages to be granted, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant acted with an “evil mind or evil hand.”

A person acts with an evil mind or evil hand when:

  • They had ill will and intentionally caused harm to the victim.
  • They knew that what they were doing was so unsafe that it was incredibly likely to hurt someone, yet they did it anyway.

This is considered a “heightened standard” under the law and it’s very difficult to meet. However, punitive damages are awarded in car accident cases.

Punitive damages

Being injured in a serious car accident can change a person’s life. They may be faced with permanent disability, medical debt and mental trauma. Thankfully, victims don’t have to suffer in silence. In Arizona, those injured because of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing are entitled to compensation.

Hiring an experienced car accident lawyer is the first step towards justice. Victims shouldn’t wait too long to file suit. Arizona imposes a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits; hesitating could mean permanently forfeiting your right to legal recourse.

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