Litigation Lawyers in Lexington
In Lexington, Tennessee, 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 Lexington, Tennessee 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.
In Lexington, Tennessee, 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 Lexington, Tennessee
Personal injury litigation doesn't typically carry with it the possibility of punitive damages in Lexington, Tennessee, because typically personal injury cases stem from harm that was caused accidentally, not deliberately. Accidental harm is not enough to warrant an award of punitive damages in Lexington, Tennessee.
Punitive damages in Lexington, Tennessee are only awarded in the most extreme cases. Fraud, theft, assault, battery, and other intentional, immoral acts are grounds for punitive damages. Lexington, Tennessee courts will consider various factors in considering whether or not to award punitive damages. For example, the court might employ a sliding scale that weighs the immorality of the defendant's behavior against the actual harm that it caused to the plaintiff, and calculate damages accordingly.
It's important to know that punitive damages in Lexington, Tennessee 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 Lexington, Tennessee, 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 Tennessee, 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 Lexington, Tennessee Attorney Help?
Lexington, Tennessee's courts have wide discretion in awarding punitive damages. Accordingly, it is unrealistic to comprehensively discuss all the situations in which punitive damages can arise.
If you are engaged in a case in Lexington, Tennessee 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 Lexington, Tennessee civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.