Can I Get Awarded Punitive Damages in California?

Author: Mesriani Law Group
Posted on: May 20, 2021

If you were injured in an accident, you have the right to recover damages for your injury. In California, personal injury victims can be awarded compensatory damages – which are intended to compensate them and give them justice after being wronged.

On the other hand, punitive damages are based not on the plaintiff’s losses – but are designed to prevent others from getting hurt from similar actions. Here are some things you should know about punitive damages and examples of when you could get awarded.

Malice, Oppression, and Fraud

California law allows for injured victims to recover punitive damages when they can prove that their injuries were caused by another person’s malice, oppression, or fraud.

According to California law,

  • Malice is conduct intended to cause injury to a person or despicable conduct by a person with conscious and willful disregard of the safety or rights of others.
  • Oppression is despicable conduct that subjects a person to unjust or cruel hardship with conscious disregard of his or her rights.
  • Fraud is intentional deceit, concealment of a material fact, or misrepresentation to deprive a person of legal rights or cause injury.

Punitive damages are usually awarded in cases that include extreme recklessness or intentional harm. The damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for their extreme negligence and to deter future dangerous conduct.

Unlike compensatory damages which are intended to compensate the plaintiff with enough money to cover the amount of the loss or injury, punitive damages are based not on the plaintiff’s losses. Rather, punitive damages are based on the defendant’s actions. If granted, punitive damages are awarded along with compensatory damages.

Calculating Punitive Damages 

Although there isn’t an established formula for calculating punitive damages in California, the jury will typically consider several factors including:

  • How deplorable was the defendant’s conduct?
  • Did the defendant disregard the health and safety of others?
  • Was the conduct part of a pattern?
  • Did the defendant act with deceit?
  • What amount of award is necessary is punish and discourage future wrongful conduct?

Punitive damages may not be increased just because a defendant has substantial financial resources. The calculation of the damages must be based exclusively on the defendant’s actions.

Examples of When Punitive Damages May Be Awarded

Punitive damages are not awarded for every personal injury case. However, some situations where personal injury victims may be entitled to receive punitive damages include:

  • Car accidents caused by a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Sexual assault
  • Assault and battery
  • Wrongful termination
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress

Again, the law allows plaintiffs to recover punitive damages – but only when they can show that their injuries were the result of the defendant’s malice, oppression, or fraud.

Speak with a California Accident Attorney Today

At Mesriani Law Group, our attorneys are strong advocates for victims of personal injury accidents. With over 20 years of experience winning personal injury cases, we’re confident that we can help you with your situation. We offer all clients a No Win No Fee policy – that means if we don’t win your claim, you don’t pay us anything. Contact our office today for your free legal consultation.