Punitive Damages in Biloxi Car Accident Cases
Punitive damages, unlike other recoverable damages, such as economic and non-economic losses, are not to designed to compensate an injured person for his damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant, and to set an example to deter that defendant, and all similarly situated individuals and businesses, from engaging in such reckless behavior in the future. Punitive damage awards serve the community as a whole, by encouraging safe conduct through heavy consequences for reckless conduct.
It is not common for a jury in Mississippi to award punitive damages, because unfortunately the courts rarely allow the jury to consider awarding such damages. That is why it can be so important to retain a skilled car accident attorney if you or a loved one is involved in a wreck caused by egregious or intentional behavior. Experienced legal counsel could work to gather the appropriate evidence and present it to the court to maximize the likelihood of recovering punitive damages in Biloxi car accident cases.
Justifications for Punitive Damages
Mississippi’s punitive damages statute expressly states that punitive damages may be recovered when the conduct of the person who caused the accident demonstrates a reckless disregard for the safety of others. For example, choosing to drive while drunk could be the type of conduct that could lead to punitive damages.
Likewise, if a driver takes their eyes off the road because they choose to have a text conversation with someone on their cellphone, an argument could be made that the behavior exhibits a reckless disregard for the safety of others—especially since texting while driving is now a criminal offense in Mississippi. Choosing to drive at an excessive rate of speed is another behavior that may constitute reckless driving and lead to the imposition of punitive damages.
Factors That Could Influence Punitive Damage Awards
Factors that may influence the likelihood of a punitive damages award in a Biloxi car accident case are specified in Mississippi’s punitive damages statute. When a jury deliberates an award of punitive damages and determines its value, they must consider relevant factors such as the:
- Nature and reprehensibility of the defendant’s wrongdoing
- Impact of the defendant’s conduct on the plaintiff
- Relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff
- Defendant’s awareness of the amount of harm being caused and motivation in causing such harm
- Duration of the defendant’s misconduct
- Defendant’s financial condition and net worth
The jury should also identify whether the egregious behavior is a one-time incident or the individual regularly acts that way. It may additionally be important to establish whether or not the defendant attempted to conceal their misconduct, such as by hiding the cellphone they were texting on while driving and denying they were doing it.
Finally, the jury considers any other circumstances that may be shown by the evidence to determine the proper amount of punitive damages. The degree of reprehensibility and reckless disregard demonstrated by the at-fault party’s conduct in a Biloxi auto accident case determines whether and to what degree they may be liable for punitive damages.
How an Attorney Could Help Pursue Punitive Damages in a Biloxi Car Crash Lawsuit
In a punitive damages case, it is important to develop the evidence necessary to show the degree of reprehensibility of the at-fault driver’s conduct. An experienced car accident attorney could help do that by subpoenaing records from the defendant’s cellphone provider to show they were texting or inappropriately using their cellphone at the time of the accident, or by subpoenaing records and bills from establishments where the person was drinking to demonstrate the amount they had to drink before they chose to get on the road.
The lawyer could also identify witnesses who interacted with the person prior to the accident who may be able to speak to their motivation about what led them to drive in a reckless manner causing injuries. To start exploring what may be possible in your case, call today to set up a free initial consultation.