Are Punitive Damages Common in Kentucky Car Accidents?

If you or somebody you care about sustains an injury caused by the careless, gross negligence, or intentional actions of another driver, you should be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. In most personal injury cases, there are various types of compensation that could be awarded, including economic and non-economic damages. This typically revolves around medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. However, punitive damages can also be awarded in the aftermath of a Kentucky car accident.

Punitive Damages Are Rare

Punitive damages are a special category of damages in personal injury cases. These damages are not compensatory, which means they or not designed to compensate a victim for the injuries or losses they sustained due to the incident. Instead, punitive damages are awarded for the sole purpose of punishing the wrongdoer in the case and acting as a deterrent to any other person who may display similar conduct in the future. Any damages are not awarded for most personal injury claims and car accident cases in Kentucky. In order to justify punitive damages, a plaintiff and their attorney will need to show that the wrongdoer’s conduct was a result of:

  • Oppression. This means that the conduct was specifically intended by the defendant to cause the plaintiff a cruel and unjust hardship.
  • Fraud. This means there was an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of material facts known to the defendant and made with the intention of harming the plaintiff.
  • Malice. This means that the conduct by the defendant was specifically intended to cause tangible or intangible injury to the plaintiff, or the conduct of the defendant was carried out with flagrant indifference to the rights of the plaintiff and with the awareness that their conduct would result in bodily harm or death.

In most cases, punitive damages will be awarded under the “malice” portion of this definition in Kentucky car accidents. In a motor vehicle accident case in Kentucky, this could include a driver operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, particularly if the driver has multiple DUI offenses. This could also include a driver playing the game of “chicken” with another driver on the roadway. Chicken is a game when two vehicles drive towards each other head-on at high speeds. The first driver to swerve out of the way loses the game. However, either driver involved in a game of chicken could lose control of their vehicle or cause a serious accident involving others on the roadway. This type of behavior may warrant punitive damages.

How Are Punitive Damages Calculated?

Punitive damages are not calculated based on the amount of compensatory damages that the injury victim will receive. Rather, the appropriate amount of punitive damages will be based on a number of factors, including the following:

  • The nature and character of the defendant’s conduct
  • How much the defendant has in assets
  • How much harm could be deterred in the future by punishing the defendant now
  • The actual harm suffered by the plaintiff in the case

Is There a Limit to Punitive Damages in Kentucky?

Many states in the US place limitations, or caps, on the amount of money that can be awarded for punitive damages. However, there is no limitation on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a Kentucky personal injury case. The total punitive damage award will be decided by a jury when they make a determination about the amount of economic and non-economic compensation that should be awarded to an injury victim.