Are Punitive Damages Allowed in a Personal Injury Case in Worcester?
When you are injured by the actions of another, you may very well incur thousands of dollars’ worth of losses, ranging from medical expenses to lost wages and more. If you decide to pursue a personal injury case against the person responsible for your injuries, Massachusetts law allows you to seek compensation for your economic losses, noneconomic losses, and sometimes, in the event of death, even punitive damages. While economic and noneconomic damages are specifically meant to compensate you – the victim – for the financial and intangible harm you have suffered, punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for their actions.
When Are Punitive Damages Allowed?
Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are not available in every personal injury case. In fact, in Massachusetts, punitive damages are only available when statute allows for their recovery. Turning to Massachusetts statutes, then, punitive damages are only available in cases of:
- Wrongful death (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 229, Section 2);
- Employee discrimination and civil rights violations; and
- Unfair insurance practices.
This means that in terms of personal injury cases, punitive damages are only recoverable when the defendant’s actions lead to the fatal injury of the victim. If an injury is not fatal, Massachusetts courts do not allow for the recovery of punitive damages.
Another rule about punitive damages is that they are only awarded in the event that the victim’s death was a direct result of the “malicious, willful, wanton, or reckless conduct” of the defendant. This means that punitive damages are not available when negligence alone is the cause of death.
Are Punitive Damages Capped in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts’ wrongful death statute, cited above, reads that when the willful, wanton, reckless, or malicious conduct of one party leads to the death of another, punitive damages in an amount of not less than $5,000 are available. Today, however, punitive damages are usually much more than that. In order to determine the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff should be awarded, the jury must consider the defendant’s act, and the type of harm and extent of harm that the plaintiff suffered as a direct result. There is not a cap on these types of damages in the state. However, it should be noted that punitive damages are very rare in the Commonwealth; they are only available in cases of wrongful death, and wrongful death caused by gross negligence/malicious intent.
Learn More About Maximizing Your Damages Award
Even when punitive damages are not available, you still have the right to seek the full value of your losses in a Worcester personal injury case. At Tetzel Law, LLC, our experienced personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process of filing your claim, proving negligence, and calculating the amount of damages you’re entitled to. Then, we can help you to maximize your compensation award and negotiate for a settlement that fully addresses your losses.
If you are ready to learn more about filing a personal injury claim in Worcester, contact our law offices today. You can reach us now online or by phone at (617) 933-3858.