Suing for Punitive Damages in Jefferson County
In Jefferson County, Alabama, the civil litigation system is mainly concerned with compensating the victims of wrongdoing, rather than punishing the wrongdoers, or casting moral blame upon them.
Nonetheless, this general principle has a major exception. In rare cases, a Jefferson County, Alabama judge or jury can award damages to the plaintiff that are not calculated by the actual losses sustained. Instead, they serve the purpose of punishing the defendant, and deterring others from wrongdoing. These are called "punitive damages."
Courts in Jefferson County, Alabama do not authorize punitive damages in most cases. The civil litigation system is geared against authorizing financial windfalls to civil plaintiffs. But, there are rare cases, where the defendant has done something to the plaintiff that is so morally reprehensible, that society's interest in punishing the defendant and deterring comparable misconduct outweighs the civil justice system's preference against punitive damages.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Jefferson County, Alabama
Generally personal injury cases in Jefferson County, Alabama do not involve punitive damages, because the defendant did not intend to cause harm, or act with some other form of malice. Rather, most of these cases involve situations where the defendant acted carelessly, but did not actually intend to cause harm. This is enough to award compensatory damages, but it is far from sufficient to award punitive damages in Jefferson County, Alabama.
In Jefferson County, Alabama, punitive damages are not awarded in most cases. They are usually only awarded when the defendant's behavior was so reckless or deplorable that punishment of the defendant is warranted. Acts such as battery, fraud, and defamation (in some cases) are usually considered sufficient in Jefferson County, Alabama to justify punitive damages. In deciding whether to award punitive damages, and how much to award, the two most important factors the court looks at will be the level of immorality of the act, as well as the actual harm that the plaintiff suffered as a result of the defendant's conduct.
There are limits on punitive damages in Jefferson County, Alabama. The Supreme Court has held that punitive damage awards which are grossly disproportionate to the immorality of the conduct, and the harm that it caused, are an unconstitutional deprivation of property without due process of law.
Punitive damages in Jefferson County, Alabama normally cannot surpass 10 times the amount of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. Nonetheless, this is just a guideline, and not a strict rule. Courts in Alabama have found larger punitive damage awards to be perfectly valid, and smaller ones to be invalid. This will be strongly dependent on the facts of each case.
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Jefferson County, Alabama's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Therefore, it is impractical to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you are immersed in a case in Jefferson County, Alabama that you believe might entitle you to punitive damages, a lot of money could be at stake. Therefore, if you want to pursue your legal remedies, you should see a Jefferson County, Alabama civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.