Litigation Lawyers in Corrales
The civil litigation system in Corrales, New Mexico is designed to provide compensation for individuals who are injured because of the unlawful conduct of others. It is not much concerned with punishing or deterring wrongdoers.
This general principle is subject to an important exception, however. There are cases where a judge in Corrales, New Mexico 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.
In Corrales, New Mexico, punitive damages are not awarded in many cases. This is because the civil litigation system strongly disfavors giving money to plaintiffs in amounts disproportionate to the injuries they have suffered. However, in some cases, the conduct of the defendant is so reprehensible, that simply punishing the defendant is a worthy goal, and this interest outweighs the preference against giving civil plaintiffs financial windfalls.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Corrales, New Mexico
The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in Corrales, New Mexico involve cases 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 Corrales, New Mexico.
Punitive Damages in Corrales, New Mexico are only awarded in cases where the behavior of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Corrales, New Mexico, 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 aware of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in Corrales, New Mexico. 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 Corrales, New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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 Corrales, New Mexico Attorney Help?
The law of Corrales, New Mexico doesn't lay out many strict conditions which are required before punitive damages can be granted. Instead, it largely leaves it to the discretion of the courts. So, there are many situations where they might be awarded.
If you have been hurt in Corrales, New Mexico 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 Corrales, New Mexico.