Litigation Lawyers in Walnut Creek
In Walnut Creek, California, the civil litigation system is mainly 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 Walnut Creek, California will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff damages which are not directly tied to any harm sustained 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 Walnut Creek, California prefer not to grant punitive damages. This is because the civil justice system is designed mainly to compensate the victims of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, there are some cases where the defendant's conduct was so immoral and evil that civil courts have an interest in making them pay further 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 Walnut Creek, California
Generally personal injury cases in Walnut Creek, 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 Walnut Creek, California.
Punitive Damages in Walnut Creek, California are only awarded in cases where the actions of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Walnut Creek, 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.
Nonetheless, in Walnut Creek, California, the law places limits on punitive damages. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled various times that punitive damages cannot be grossly disproportionate to the evil nature of the conduct, and the injuries that the defendant suffered. If they are disproportionate, punitive damages might be considered a deprivation of the defendant's right to due process of law.
In general, punitive damages in Walnut Creek, California cannot be more than 10 times larger than the actual damages sustained by the plaintiff. Nonetheless, this is not an absolute rule, and appeals courts in California have upheld much larger awards, and found much smaller awards to be invalid. It's decided on a case-by-case basis.
How Can a Walnut Creek, California Attorney Help?
In Walnut Creek, California, judges and juries have a good deal of leeway in deciding if they want to grant punitive damages, so there are a nearly-unlimited number of situations that can lead to a punitive damage award.
If you are immersed in a case in Walnut Creek, California 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 Walnut Creek, California civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.