Individuals who sustain injuries caused by the negligent actions of others should be able to recover compensation for their losses. Typically, if a personal injury claim is successful, victims will be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost income, property damage expenses, and pain and suffering damages that they endure. These are the most common types of economic and non-economic losses. However, in some situations, Kentucky personal injury victims may be able to recover punitive damages as well.
Recovering punitive damages is very different than recovering other types of economic or non-economic losses after an injury occurs. These types of damages have very specific definitions under state law, and there is a separate set of factors used to measure how much should be paid in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are typically reserved for situations where an at-fault party has displayed gross negligence, recklessness, or caused an injury due to their intentional actions. These damages serve as a punishment to the at-fault party, but they also are meant to send the signal to others in the community that the types of actions displayed in the case are not acceptable.
Specifically, if we look at Kentucky law, we see that individuals can recover these damages “only upon proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant from whom such damages are sought acted toward the plaintiff with oppression, fraud or malice.”
In this particular definition, oppression refers to intentional actions by the at-fault party, fraud refers to the at-fault party misrepresenting or concealing material facts to cause harm to the plaintiff, and malice refers to conduct that is specifically intended to cause tangible or intangible injuries to the plaintiff.
There is no set amount of compensation paid in punitive damages if they are awarded in Kentucky. Rather, a jury will examine various facts related to each particular claim and decide whether or not to award punitive damages and then how much to award in these damages. In many jurisdictions across the country, there are caps, or limitations, placed on how the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded to a victim. However, there is no such cap in Kentucky.
It is up to a jury to determine a suitable dollar amount for punitive damages to be awarded to a personal injury victim who has been subject to oppression, fraud, or malice of the defendant. Thus, it is not uncommon for there to be rather high punitive dollar amounts for specific types of cases in Kentucky.
Even though there is not a dollar cap for punitive damages in this state, we caution individuals from relying too much on recovering these specific types of compensation. Individuals are much more likely to recover traditional types of economic and non-economic compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This includes medical bills, lost income, property damage expenses, and pain and suffering damages. Because punitive damages are rare, and the bar is set higher, no one should factor in an absolute guarantee of recovering these specific types of losses.