Litigation Lawyers in Des Moines
Civil litigation in Des Moines, Washington is concerned almost always with extending financial redress to the victims of wrongdoing. It is not concerned with meting out punishment or moral judgment upon the wrongdoers.
There is an exception to this basic rule, however: in certain cases, a court in Des Moines, Washington will award damages designed to punish the wrongdoer, and deter others from future wrongdoing. This practice is known as "punitive damages."
It's important to note that courts in Des Moines, Washington prefer not to grant punitive damages. This is because the civil justice system is designed mainly to compensate the victims of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, there are some cases where the defendant's conduct was so immoral and evil that civil courts have an interest in making them pay further damages, going above and beyond what's needed to compensate the victim, in order to serve as a deterrent.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Des Moines, Washington
Mostly personal injury cases in Des Moines, Washington involve injuries that the defendant did not intend to cause, but was still at fault in causing them (through negligence, for instance). In Des Moines, Washington, this is not enough to justify the award of punitive damages.
Punitive Damages in Des Moines, Washington are only awarded in cases where the conduct of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Des Moines, Washington, 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 cognizant of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in Des Moines, Washington. 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 large amounts of property.
In general, punitive damages in Des Moines, Washington cannot be more than 10 times larger than the actual damages sustained by the plaintiff. Nonetheless, this is not an absolute rule, and appeals courts in Washington have upheld much larger awards, and found much smaller awards to be invalid. It's decided on a case-by-case basis.
How Can a Des Moines, Washington Attorney Help?
In Des Moines, Washington, there are a large variety of situations in which punitive damages are appropriate, because the decision to grant punitive damages is largely up to the discretion of the jury.
If you have been injured in Des Moines, Washington and you think punitive damages might be justified, a large amount of money might be at stake. For that reason, you should not delay to consult a civil litigation attorney in Des Moines, Washington.