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Understanding Punitive Damages in Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawsuits

gavel scale and booksThe purpose of damages in most personal injury cases is to help compensate an accident victim for monetary losses. The purpose of punitive damages, however, is to punish the wrongdoer by requiring him or her to pay the victim. Pennsylvania limits punitive damages to cases in which particularly outrageous conduct was involved.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries because of another person’s negligent or intentional conduct, it is important that you immediately seek competent legal counsel. The Harrisburg personal injury attorneys at Schmidt Kramer have decades of experience representing clients who have sustained catastrophic injuries and who have lost loved ones due to the acts of others. We work tirelessly to hold negligent parties accountable for the harm they have caused.

Call (717) 888-8888 now to talk to a member of our experienced legal team.

Should I Seek Punitive Damages?

When a person acts with reckless indifference to the potential harm that he or she may cause others, or if he or she meant to cause harm, the law allows victims to seek punitive damages. Historically, Pennsylvania courts have awarded punitive damages in cases in which the defendant’s conduct was malicious or demonstrated reckless indifference.

Typically, the court finds that an at-fault party acted outrageously when they made a conscious decision about a particular course of action. This decision demonstrates that the at-fault party was aware of the harm that may be caused and did not try to avoid or prevent the harm. If you were harmed by such an action, you may have a case for punitive damages.

Types of Cases That Can Result in Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may be awarded to a victim who suffered harm due to:

  • Assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Fraud
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Reckless indifference to causing harm

Punitive damages may also be awarded in:

  • Product liability cases, such as when a manufacturer is aware of dangers associated with its product and intentionally chooses not to warn consumers
  • Dog bite cases in which the owner knew that his or her dog was particularly violent and failed to take proper safeguards
  • Car accident cases, such as when the at-fault driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Medical Malpractice

Punitive damages may be awarded in cases involving medical malpractice if the health care provider’s conduct is willful or in reckless indifference to the safety of others. When determining whether to award punitive damages in medical malpractice cases, a jury may evaluate factors such as:

  • The extent of harm to the patient
  • The financial resources of the health care provider
  • The intent of the health care provider
  • The nature of the harm

Pennsylvania state statute § 1303.505 limits punitive damages against a physician to 200 percent of the victim’s compensatory damages unless intentional misconduct is involved. Any punitive damage award is divided between the victim, who receives 75 percent of these damages, and the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (Mcare), which receives 25 percent of the award.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Assistance

Some cases warrant the award of punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer and hopefully prevent similar actions in the future. It is important to contact a personal injury attorney to learn about your right to recover punitive damages and other types of damages.

Our firm has a proven reputation for helping our clients receive maximum compensation for their injuries. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. We only collect attorneys’ fees if your claim is successful.

Call us today at (717) 888-8888 or fill out a free case review form so we can get started.