When an injured plaintiff files a lawsuit, they must claim damages very specifically. In some cases, punitive damages might be available, although they are different than typical compensatory damages.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for their bad behavior rather than compensate for losses experienced by the plaintiff. Punitive damages are not available in every case and are usually awarded when the defendant has displayed a high degree of negligence or malice. In some cases, punitive damages can be quite high, and the State of Arkansas previously capped punitive damages to prevent excessive awards. However, this law was declared unconstitutional in a 2011 court case. To prove your claims for punitive damages, you must meet a separate burden of proof, and we can help you get the evidence you need to persuade the court to award punitive damages.
Personal injuries can be painful, traumatic, and costly. The defendant should be held accountable for what they have done, and you deserve punitive damages. For a free case review, call our Arkansas personal injury attorneys at (479) 316-0438.
Punitive Damages in Arkansas Civil Lawsuits
In most civil cases, including those for personal injuries, plaintiffs must claim damages. Typically, these damages are compensatory and designed to make up for the plaintiff’s losses. Economic damages like medical bills and non-economic damages like pain and suffering are common. A less common third category of damages is punitive damages. These damages are not often awarded but may be considered in certain cases.
Punitive damages punish defendants by making them pay additional compensation to the plaintiffs they hurt. Not everyone can claim punitive damages, though. The harm the plaintiff experienced is usually pretty severe, and the defendant’s behavior is often shocking, outrageous, or malicious. Talk to our Fayetteville personal injury attorneys if you believe your case merits consideration for punitive damages.
How to Claim Punitive Damages in Arkansas
As with any damages, the plaintiff must specifically claim punitive damages in their initial complaint. Courts typically do not consider damages not specifically pleaded for, so if you do not claim any punitive damages, you will not be awarded any. Our Bentonville personal injury lawyers can help determine if you have a good chance of being awarded punitive damages.
Remember, things like damages must be pleaded for with specificity. Vague statements about how the defendant is wrong and deserves to pay are not enough to convince a court to consider awarding punitive damages. We must explain how the defendant harmed you and why their behavior was so shocking. We must also have evidence that their behavior warrants a punitive damages award.
Limitations on Punitive Damages in Arkansas
Estimating the value of punitive damages can be tricky because they tend to vary from case to case. In many cases, punitive damages awards are very high, especially in situations where the defendant’s behavior was particularly shocking or showed a complete lack of remorse. In the past, punitive damages were capped by statute, but that rule was changed in 2011 by the Supreme Court of Arkansas.
Previously, punitive damages were limited by law. According to Arkansas Cade § 16-55-208(a), punitive damages could not exceed $250,000 or triple the total compensatory damages, whichever amount was greater. This law was declared unconstitutional under the Arkansas State Constitution by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 2011.
In the case of Bayer CropScience LP v. Schafer, the issue of punitive damages and whether the government should be allowed to limit them was decided. In this case, the appellant, Bayer CropScience LP (a.k.a., Bayer), was found to have knowingly contaminated the nation’s supply of rice. This contamination caused many countries to slow or completely ban rice imports from the United States. Ultimately, Bayer lost its case, was held liable, and had to pay millions of dollars in damages.
The key issue, in this case, was whether the $42 million punitive damages award was allowed to stand or if it was limited under the state statute mentioned above. The court decided that limiting punitive damages award violated the Arkansas State Constitution, specifically Art. 5 § 32. Now, it is illegal for the state to try and limit or cap punitive damages unless the parties have some sort of employer-employee relationship.
If you want to claim punitive damages, you will not face limitations or caps in most cases. You should discuss your situation with our Springdale personal injury attorneys so we can figure out what kind of punitive damages award you can claim and whether you might face restrictions.
How to Prove Your Claims for Punitive Damages in Arkansas
To be awarded punitive damages, we must meet the standards set by law. This will require evidence and persuasive arguments, and our Arkansas personal injury attorneys can help you. Not only must we adhere to these standards, but we must also meet a specific burden of proof.
According to Arkansas Code § 16-55-206, we have the burden of proving that the defendant is not only liable for compensatory damages but that certain aggravating factors exist that warrant punitive damages.
We have to prove that the defendant knew or should have known that their conduct would likely result in injury or damage and that they continued with their conduct out of malice or a reckless disregard of the consequences that implied malice. Alternatively, we must prove that the defendant intentionally pursued their course of conduct for the purpose of causing injury or harm.
Whichever way we try to prove that punitive damages are warranted, we must meet our burden of proof. According to Arkansas Code § 16-55-207, we must prove our claims for punitive damages by clear and convincing evidence. This burden is higher than the preponderance of the evidence, which is more typical in civil lawsuits. As such, our Sebastian County personal injury lawyers will need strong and convincing evidence to support your claims for punitive damages.
Contact Our Arkansas Personal Injury Attorneys for a Free Case Evaluation
If you were injured in an accident or by the intentional actions of another, our Rogers personal injury attorneys can help you get compensation and justice, including the possibility of punitive damages. For a free case evaluation, call our team at (479) 316-0438.
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