Punitive Damages in Commercial Truck Accident Cases
Arizona statutes allow injured parties to seek punitive damages in certain civil cases. Punitive damages are additional awards on top of general and special damages, awarded at the court’s discretion. The point of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for his or her actions. The courts might award punitive damages in a truck accident case if the defendant’s behavior was especially wanton, wrongful, or harmful. The lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A. may be able to help you fight for punitive damages in your Phoenix truck accident claim.
What Is a Punitive Damages Claim?
Not all personal injury claims will involve punitive damage awards. Punitive damages (also called exemplary damages) only exist in cases where the courts see fit to penalize the defendant for particularly egregious actions. Although a plaintiff has certain burdens of proof if claiming punitive damages, the decision to grant or deny the award is largely the decision of the court. In general, the courts will agree to award punitive damages if it believes they will help reform the defendant and supplement inadequate compensatory damages.
A punitive damages claim might arise in a truck accident case if the victim suffered severe, catastrophic, or fatal injuries. Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries are examples of harms that might garner punitive damage awards since they can affect a victim for life. The extreme and expensive nature of these injuries often mean that general and special damages are not enough. The courts might award punitive damages to avoid under-compensating the plaintiff.
In What Instance May a Plaintiff Make a Punitive Damages Claim?
A punitive damages claim is appropriate if the truck driver or company was grossly negligent, reckless, or had an intent to harm the plaintiff. In Arizona, the plaintiff will need to have “clear and convincing evidence” that “evil motives or willful or wanton disregard for the interests of others” guided the defendant’s wrongful actions. Clear and convincing evidence is the greatest burden of proof possible in civil lawsuits. This type of evidence is anything that shows that the truth of the plaintiff’s claim is “highly probable.”
An “evil mind” can mean that the defendant intended to cause the injury, committed the act out of spite or ill will toward the plaintiff, or acted out of his/her own interests knowing that the action might injure others. The plaintiff must either prove that the defendant had motivation for causing harm or that his/her actions were so reprehensible and outrageous as to qualify for punitive damages.
Examples of truck accident circumstances that might result in grounds for a punitive damages claim include drunk or drugged driving, drowsy driving, texting and driving, or driving distracted on the truck driver’s part. A trucking company might have to pay punitive damages if it’s guilty of contributing to a crash by encouraging drivers to speed or ignore hours of service regulations, failing to maintain its fleet vehicles, or fails to vet drivers before hiring them.
Is There a Cap/Limit on Punitive Damages in Arizona?
No, there is currently no cap on punitive damages in Arizona. The Arizona constitution, Article 2 Section 31, prohibits the existence of caps or limits on any type of damage award in personal injury or wrongful death claims. This means the amount you receive in punitive damages is largely up to the circumstances of your trucking accident, severity of injuries, actions of the defendant, and abilities of your attorney.
A Phoneix truck accident attorney from Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A. will have your best interests in mind during claim or trial negotiations against a major trucking company in Arizona. We can help fight for punitive damages if we believe your case warrants them. Contact us to discover the possible value of your claim. First consultations are always free at our Phoenix law firm.