Have you ever heard stories of auto accident settlements ranging into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and wondered, “Where do these numbers come from?” Sure, accident victims can typically recover compensation from an at-fault driver for any actual losses they incur. These could include medical expenses, lost wages, or car damage. Typically, however, an accident victim’s actual medical and auto damages do not range into the millions. So how is it that these large auto accident awards come to be?
In certain circumstances, when extremely dangerous driver behavior leads to an auto accident, Pennsylvania law allows accident victims to recover punitive damages. In some cases, punitive damages can be very large, resulting in hefty awards to accident victims.
Punitive damages are compensation to victims intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar dangerous behavior. Let’s say you are driving home from work one night, and a wild driver flying through a school zone at twice the speed limit while texting slams into your car. You may suffer severe injuries resulting in long-term suffering, and your car may be totaled. In this situation, the driver at fault has exhibited sufficient recklessness to warrant a claim for punitive damages in your ensuing lawsuit.
Another situation that could bring about a claim for punitive damages occurs when a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes an accident. If the driver was driving with total disregard for the health and safety of others on the roadways, punitive damages may be available to the accident victim.