Litigation Lawyers in Lakewood
In Lakewood, California, the civil litigation system is primarily concerned with compensating the victims of wrongdoing, rather than punishing the wrongdoers, or casting moral blame upon them.
There is a major exception to this rule, however. In limited situations, courts in Lakewood, California will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff damages which are not directly tied to any harm suffered by the plaintiff. Rather, these damages, which are known as "punitive damages", are meant to punish the wrongdoer, and serve as a deterrent.
In Lakewood, California, punitive damages are not awarded in many cases. This is because the civil litigation system strongly disfavors giving money to plaintiffs in amounts disproportionate to the injuries they have suffered. However, in some cases, the conduct of the defendant is so reprehensible, that simply punishing the defendant is a worthy goal, and this interest outweighs the preference against giving civil plaintiffs financial windfalls.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Lakewood, California
Generally personal injury cases in Lakewood, California 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 Lakewood, California.
Punitive Damages in Lakewood, California are only awarded in cases where the actions of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Lakewood, California, torts such as fraud, gross negligence, and theft are sufficient to award punitive damages. Courts consider numerous factors when deciding whether or not punitive damages are warranted. Courts will look at the nature of the act, as well as the defendant's intent in performing the act. This will be weighed, on a sliding scale, against the actual harm that the defendant's conduct caused to the plaintiff.
You should be aware of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in Lakewood, California. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that there are constitutional limits on punitive damage awards. Punitive damages can't be too disproportionate to the actual damages that the plaintiff has suffered. Appeals courts have found that excessive punitive damage awards violate the defendant's right to due process, by depriving them of massive amounts of property.
A good rule of thumb for calculating the upper limit of punitive damages in Lakewood, California is that punitive damages can be no larger than compensatory damages times ten. This rule is not absolute, of course. Courts in California have a good deal of discretion in awarding punitive damages, and will determine them based on the facts of each case. Because of this, punitive damage awards larger than 10 times compensatory damages are sometimes upheld, while much smaller awards have been overturned, because they were deemed excessive in a particular case.
How Can a Lakewood, California Attorney Help?
Lakewood, California's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Accordingly, it is impractical to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you are immersed in a case in Lakewood, California where punitive damages are a possibility, a very large amount of money could be at stake, whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. You should not hesitate to speak with a civil litigation attorney in Lakewood, California