Litigation Lawyers in Swansea
In Swansea, 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 Swansea, 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 Swansea, Massachusetts are not awarded lightly, because the civil justice system generally 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 Swansea, Massachusetts
Mostly personal injury cases in Swansea, Massachusetts do not involve punitive damages, because the defendant did not intend to cause harm, or act with some other form of malice. Instead, 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 Swansea, Massachusetts.
Punitive Damages in Swansea, Massachusetts are only awarded in cases where the conduct of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Swansea, Massachusetts, 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.
There are limits on punitive damages in Swansea, Massachusetts. 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.
Generally, in Swansea, Massachusetts, punitive damage awards that exceed the actual damages (those awarded to directly compensate the plaintiff) by a factor of 10. This is not an absolute rule, however, and is applied on a case-by-case basis. Courts in Massachusetts have found much smaller awards to be invalid, and upheld much larger awards.
How Can a Swansea, Massachusetts Attorney Help?
In Swansea, Massachusetts, 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 circumstances that can lead to a punitive damage award.
If you are involved in a case in Swansea, Massachusetts that you believe might entitle you to punitive damages, a lot of money could be at stake. So, if you want to pursue your legal remedies, you should see a Swansea, Massachusetts civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.