If you’re the victim of a car crash in Rio Rancho, you may be entitled to seek damages. Judges and juries award compensatory damages to make victims whole, at least financially. Punitive damages punish defendants who act in grossly negligent or intentional harmful ways. Read on for everything you need to know about punitive damages in Rio Rancho.
What are Compensatory Damages?
To understand punitive damages, you should first understand compensatory damages. Judges and juries award these damages to an injured party to compensate them for damages to property, injuries, or other financial losses, such as lost wages after an injury in car accident. The judge or a jury will award these losses only in the amount necessary to replace what was lost — and victims must verify those losses, for example through medical bills. Still, these awards can be quite large. In May 2022, the state Supreme Court upheld a $165 million judgment against FedEx for a New Mexico highway crash that killed a mother and daughter and critically injured a toddler.
When are Punitive Damages in Rio Rancho Awarded?
Punitive damages aren’t always applicable in auto collision cases. In Rio Rancho and across New Mexico, judges and juries grant them most commonly when a driver was convicted of DWI due to drug or alcohol use. In these cases, it’s possible to show that the driver was negligent or intentionally harmful. Punitive damages may also be applicable in personal injury claims.
How Do You Prove Punitive Damages Apply?
For the court to find that punitive damages should be awarded in cases involving vehicle collisions, lawyers must prove the party’s actions were:
· Malicious: The driver acted knowing his/her actions were wrong.
· Willful and wanton: The motorist acted negligently, but also intentionally. He/she knew that his/her actions could harm others or consciously disregarded others’ safety.
· Reckless: The defendant acted with indifference to the consequences.
· Oppressive: The driver acted harshly without considering fairness to others.
· Fraudulent: The defendant acted in a false or misleading way.
How Do Punitive Damages Work?
The legal system awards punitive damages on top of compensatory damages. These damages cover more than direct and traceable losses. Judges intend them to punish the defendant and set an example to others. Punitive damages are also known by another name, “exemplary damages,” because these monetary sums are “intended to set an example to deter others from committing similar acts,” according to Investopedia.
How are Punitive Damages in Rio Rancho Decided?
Judges and juries award punitive damages in Rio Rancho and elsewhere in New Mexico based on a handful of factors:
· Severity of the Defendant’s Conduct
If the defendant’s actions are egregiously negligent or irresponsible, the plaintiff may be eligible for punitive damages. The more shockingly bad the defendant’s behavior, the higher the award the plaintiff may receive.
· Proportion of the Defendant’s Wealth
The legal system intends for exemplary damages to punish the defendant. Thus, it bases financial awards somewhat on the defendant’s wealth. The legal system may force wealthier individuals or companies to pay more. It sets amounts uncomfortably high to attempt to force the defendant to refrain from similar behavior in the future.
· Level of Harm
Punitive damages awards are also based on the level of injury, harm, or damage. Defendants who cause greater damage (such as a disregard for life that resulted in a death) must pay larger damages than those who caused less grave damage.
Could You be Eligible for Punitive Damages?
After an accident, everyone’s priority is making the victim whole again. Compensatory damages do just that. Historically, in New Mexico, it has been difficult to substantiate the high burden of proof punitive damages require. People who have a lawful claim to punitive damages should certainly seek them, but it’s important to have experienced legal counsel to assist with these types of cases.
How Sanchez and Piñon Can Help
If you are seeking a personal injury lawyer and would like to know more about the settlement you may receive, contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s auto accident and injury attorneys, for a free consultation. While other attorneys talk, we listen and provide a personal level of representation. We can discuss how to fight for the compensation you deserve.