Litigation Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, civil litigation is not meant to punish wrongdoers, at least that is not its primary purpose. Alternatively, it is designed to ensure that the victims of wrongdoing are given compensation for the harm they've suffered.
There is a major exception to this rule, however. In limited cases, courts in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff damages which are not directly tied to any harm suffered by the plaintiff. Rather, these damages, which are known as "punitive damages", are meant to punish the wrongdoer, and serve as a deterrent.
Punitive Damages in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are not awarded lightly, because the civil justice system usually disfavors giving plaintiffs financial windfalls not directly related to compensating them for their injuries. They are usually only awarded when the conduct of the defendant is morally reprehensible, and far worse than simple carelessness.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Typically personal injury cases in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina involve injuries that the defendant did not intend to cause, but was still at fault in causing them (through negligence, for example). In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this is not enough to justify the award of punitive damages.
Punitive Damages in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are only awarded in cases where the behavior of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 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 critical to know that punitive damages in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 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.
In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, punitive damage awards are normally (but not always) capped at 10 times the amount awarded in compensatory damages. Remember, however, that this is just a general rule of thumb, and is not completely rigid. In South Carolina, appeals courts have a good deal of discretion in deciding if a punitive damage award is valid or invalid. Much larger awards have been upheld, and smaller awards have been overturned. The validity of a particular punitive damage award will depend heavily on the facts of each case.
How Can a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Attorney Help?
In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there are an essentially unlimited number of situtations in which punitive damages can be awarded.
If you are engaged in a case in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 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 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.