Litigation Lawyers in San Francisco
In San Francisco, 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 circumstances, courts in San Francisco, 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.
It's critical to note that courts in San Francisco, California prefer not to grant punitive damages. This is because the civil justice system is designed primarily to compensate the victims of wrongdoing. However, there are some cases where the defendant's conduct was so immoral and evil that civil courts have an interest in making them pay additional damages, going above and beyond what's needed to compensate the victim, in order to serve as a deterrent.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in San Francisco, California
Mostly personal injury cases in San Francisco, California involve injuries that the defendant did not intend to cause, but was still at fault in causing them (through negligence, for example). In San Francisco, California, this is not enough to justify the award of punitive damages.
Punitive damages in San Francisco, California are not granted in many cases. They are only awarded when the defendant's conduct was so deplorable and deliberate (but not necessarily criminal) that punishment is warranted. Fraud, battery, conversion (theft) and other intentional, insidious acts are usually required before punitive damages in San Francisco, California will be considered. Furthermore, in deciding how much to award in punitive damages, a court will consider 2 main factors: the insidious nature of the defendant's conduct, and the actual harm that the plaintiff suffered as a result.
There are limits on punitive damages in San Francisco, California. 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 San Francisco, California usually cannot exceed 10 times the amount of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. However, this is just a guideline, and not a strict rule. Courts in California have found larger punitive damage awards to be perfectly valid, and smaller ones to be invalid. This will be highly dependent on the facts of each case.
How Can a San Francisco, California Attorney Help?
The law of San Francisco, California doesn't lay out many strict conditions which are required before punitive damages can be granted. Instead, it largely leaves it to the discretion of the courts. So, there are several situations where they might be awarded.
If you have been injured in San Francisco, California and you think punitive damages might be justified, a large amount of money might be at stake. For that reason, you should not hesitate to consult a civil litigation attorney in San Francisco, California.