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Punitive Damages in a Truck Accident Case

Are Punitive Damages Possible in a Truck Accident Case?

One of the things that elevate damage awards in jury verdicts is punitive damages. If you have been injured in a truck accident, you are likely wondering whether you can get punitive damages against the truck driver or the company that employs him or her. Although it is rare in a personal injury case, here is how punitive damages work.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages will generally have nothing to do with the nature and type of your injuries. Further, they will not be connected with the costs that you have incurred from the truck accident unless there has been a severe injury. What punitive damages are is a way for the jury to send a message to the wrongdoer and express its collective displeasure with their behavior. In other words, if the truck driver's behavior was egregious and appalling, they may be facing punitive damages for gross negligence.

Why Most Cases Do Not Involve Punitive Damages

In the average truck accident case, you are focused on proving that the other driver was negligent. In other words, you must show that the driver had a duty to act reasonably and failed to uphold that duty in a manner that caused you injury. This is generally through an oversight, such as an illegal turn or even the fact that he or she was speeding. Even things that you would think would be something intentional or excessive in most cases is regarded by the court as plain negligence. Further, most insurance policies will not pay for punitive damages. An overwhelming majority of truck accident cases will result in settlements before the case goes to trial. Neither party really has an incentive to take the case all the way to court, so more than 9 in 10 cases will settle before trial. Settlements will not account for and pay punitive damages, so it is very likely that a jury will never see your case. A judge or jury is generally the only party that will assess punitive damages to one party in a case. A Philadelphia truck accident attorney will have to make the case to the court in the event that you are seeking punitive damages against the truck driver or his or her employer.

When Are Punitive Damages Assessed?

Punitive damages will generally involve some conduct that shocks that conscience. The jury will be so upset at the defendant's conduct that it will try to get his or her attention and send a message. The benchmarks for punitive damages involve situations in which the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless. Alternatively, the defendant may have had an intent to harm the plaintiff, but that is rare in truck accident cases. A Philadelphia truck accident attorney may be able to get you punitive damages in a truck injury case if:
  • The truck driver was not only speeding but was traveling at an extremely high rate of speed that it would be considered reckless.
  • The truck driver's employer was forcing the driver to violate rest laws by mandating that he or she sticks to an extremely unreasonable delivery schedule.
  • The driver was put on the road in a truck that the employer knew was in disrepair and possibly dangerous to others on the road.
There can also be other issues with the truck driver's conduct, such as the fact that he or she got behind the wheel drugged or drunk, and the company did not have a way to test him or her or screen for it. Or the company could have hired someone with a long track record of dangerous conduct driving a truck, but it was willfully blind to it in the hiring process. In order to convince the court that you are entitled to punitive damages in a truck accident case, you will need assistance from a Philadelphia truck accident attorney since it will require a skilled presentation of the evidence. The attorneys at Metzger & Kleiner have been helping injured people in Philadelphia receive the compensation that they deserve for over 40 years. Call us today at (215) 567-6616 to find out how we can help you, or fill out our online form.

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