Litigation Lawyers in Billings
The civil litigation system in Billings, Montana is designed to provide compensation for persons who are injured because of the unlawful conduct of others. It is not much concerned with punishing or deterring wrongdoers.
There is an exception to this basic rule, however: in certain cases, a court in Billings, Montana will award damages designed to punish the wrongdoer, and deter others from future wrongdoing. This practice is identified as "punitive damages."
It's important to note that courts in Billings, Montana 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 Billings, Montana
Typically personal injury cases in Billings, Montana do not involve punitive damages, because the defendant did not intend to cause harm, or act with some other form of malice. Alternatively, 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 Billings, Montana.
Punitive Damages in Billings, Montana are only awarded in cases where the behavior of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Billings, Montana, 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.
You should be cognizant of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in Billings, Montana. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that there are constitutional limits on punitive damage awards. Punitive damages can't be too disproportionate to the actual damages that the plaintiff has suffered. Appeals courts have found that excessive punitive damage awards violate the defendant's right to due process, by depriving them of considerable amounts of property.
In general, punitive damages in Billings, Montana 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 Montana 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 Billings, Montana Attorney Help?
Billings, Montana's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Therefore, it is unrealistic to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you are engaged in a case in Billings, Montana 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 Billings, Montana civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.