Litigation Lawyers in Gaithersburg
In Gaithersburg, Maryland, 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 Gaithersburg, Maryland 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.
Courts in Gaithersburg, Maryland do not grant punitive damages in most cases. The civil litigation system is geared against granting financial windfalls to civil plaintiffs. But, there are rare cases, where the defendant has done something to the plaintiff that is so morally reprehensible, that society's interest in punishing the defendant and deterring similar misconduct outweighs the civil justice system's preference against punitive damages.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Gaithersburg, Maryland
The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in Gaithersburg, Maryland involve instances in which the defendant did not intend to harm the plaintiff, but did so through carelessness. This is not enough to award punitive damages in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Punitive damages in Gaithersburg, Maryland are not granted in many cases. They are only awarded when the defendant's actions 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 Gaithersburg, Maryland will be considered. Additionally, 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.
However, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the law places limits on punitive damages. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several 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 Gaithersburg, Maryland cannot be more than 10 times larger than the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. However, this is not an absolute rule, and appeals courts in Maryland have upheld much larger awards, and found much smaller awards to be invalid. It's determined on a case-by-case basis.
How Can a Gaithersburg, Maryland Attorney Help?
In Gaithersburg, Maryland, 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 have been harmed in Gaithersburg, Maryland 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 Gaithersburg, Maryland.