What does Punitive Damages mean?
Punitive damages are monetary payments made after an accident or injury to the injured party. These damages are in addition to compensatory damages which are used to make the victim whole and are used specifically to punish the defendant and deter future actions from others. It is the assumption that if punitive damages are awarded for certain egregious actions the society as a whole will learn to avoid certain actions of conduct.
Whether punitive damages are awarded varies from state to state. Some states allow the juries to determine the appropriate amount of punitive damages while other states severely limit their use with statutory caps on the amount which can be awarded. For example, some states have passed laws to limit the amount of damages which can be paid to the claimant in a medical malpractice case.