Litigation Lawyers in West Reading
In West Reading, 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 West Reading, 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."
You should be aware that courts in West Reading, Pennsylvania are not particularly fond of granting punitive damages, because they view it as a financial windfall that generally runs counter to civil litigation's primary purpose of compensating victims of wrongdoing for the harm they've suffered. However, if the conduct of the defendant was completely reprehensible and the harm caused was deliberate, a court might impose damages to punish the defendant, known as "punitive damages."
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in West Reading, Pennsylvania
The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in West Reading, 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 West Reading, Pennsylvania.
Punitive Damages in West Reading, Pennsylvania are only awarded in cases where the conduct of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In West Reading, Pennsylvania, 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.
It's essential to know that punitive damages in West Reading, Pennsylvania are subject to limits. The Supreme Court of the United States has held, more than once, that punitive damages can't be grossly disproportionate to the actual harm suffered by the plaintiff. Grossly excessive punitive damage awards are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has held, because they amount to the government taking property from the defendant without due process of law.
Generally, in West Reading, Pennsylvania, 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 Pennsylvania have found much smaller awards to be invalid, and upheld much larger awards.
How Can a West Reading, Pennsylvania Attorney Help?
In West Reading, Pennsylvania, 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 live in West Reading, Pennsylvania and are involved in a case that you believe carries the possibility of a punitive damage award, you may be entitled to a large amount of money from the person or company that injured you. To know for sure, you should speak with a civil litigation attorney in West Reading, Pennsylvania.