Litigation Lawyers in Fitchburg
In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, civil litigation serves the primary purpose of compensating people who have been victims of wrongdoing, and not meting out punishment, vengeance, or moral judgment.
This general principle is subject to an important exception, however. There are cases where a judge in Fitchburg, Massachusetts will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff a sum of money which is not calculated based on actual harm the plaintiff has suffered. These are called "punitive damages" and serve the purpose of punishing and deterring wrongdoing.
Punitive Damages in Fitchburg, Massachusetts are not awarded lightly, because the civil justice system usually disfavors giving plaintiffs financial windfalls not directly related to compensating them for their injuries. They are usually only awarded when the conduct of the defendant is morally reprehensible, and far worse than simple carelessness.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Typically personal injury cases in Fitchburg, Massachusetts involve injuries that the defendant did not intend to cause, but was still at fault in causing them (through negligence, for example). In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, this is not enough to justify the award of punitive damages.
Punitive damages in Fitchburg, Massachusetts are not granted in many cases. They are only awarded when the defendant's behavior 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 Fitchburg, Massachusetts will be considered. Moreover, 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.
It's essential to note that in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, punitive damages are not unlimited. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that punitive damages cannot be hugely disproportionate to the amount awarded to compensate the plaintiff for the actual injuries they suffered. If the punitive damages are extremely excessive, an appeals court might rule that they amount to a deprivation of property without due process of law, or a de facto criminal punishment, without affording the defendant the protections available in criminal cases.
In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, punitive damage awards are normally (but not always) capped at 10 times the amount awarded in compensatory damages. Remember, however, that this is just a general rule of thumb, and is not completely rigid. In Massachusetts, appeals courts have a good deal of discretion in deciding if a punitive damage award is valid or invalid. Much larger awards have been upheld, and smaller awards have been overturned. The validity of a particular punitive damage award will depend heavily on the facts of each case.
How Can a Fitchburg, Massachusetts Attorney Help?
Fitchburg, Massachusetts's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Accordingly, it is unrealistic to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you are engaged in a case in Fitchburg, Massachusetts that you believe might entitle you to punitive damages, a lot of money could be at stake. Thus, if you want to pursue your legal remedies, you should see a Fitchburg, Massachusetts civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.