Litigation Lawyers in Montgomery County
In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, civil litigation is not meant to punish wrongdoers, at least that is not its primary purpose. Rather, it is designed to ensure that the victims of wrongdoing are given compensation for the harm they've suffered.
However, this general principle has a major exception. In rare cases, a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania judge or jury can award damages to the plaintiff that are not calculated by the actual losses suffered. Instead, they serve the purpose of punishing the defendant, and deterring others from wrongdoing. These are called "punitive damages."
Courts in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania involve situations 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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, punitive damages are only awarded in extreme circumstances. Civil wrongs such as fraud, conversion (theft), battery, and other intentional, depraved acts are sufficient to award punitive damages. In deciding whether or not to award punitive damages, and how much money to award, courts in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania will consider many different factors. Usually, they employ a sliding scale, weighing the nature of the conduct and the actual harm that the conduct caused. The more immoral the conduct, and/or the more harm caused, the more likely a court is to award punitive damages.
It's necessary to note that in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 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 general, punitive damages in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Attorney Help?
The law of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 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 injured in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.