Litigation Lawyers in Vancouver
Civil litigation in Vancouver, 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 Vancouver, Washington will award damages designed to punish the wrongdoer, and deter others from future wrongdoing. This practice is known as "punitive damages."
It's critical to note that courts in Vancouver, 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 Vancouver, Washington
Mostly personal injury cases in Vancouver, Washington do not involve punitive damages, because the defendant did not intend to cause harm, or act with some other form of malice. Instead, most of these cases involve situations where the defendant acted carelessly, but did not actually intend to cause harm. This is enough to award compensatory damages, but it is far from sufficient to award punitive damages in Vancouver, Washington.
Punitive damages in Vancouver, Washington are only awarded in the most extreme cases. Fraud, theft, assault, battery, and other intentional, immoral acts are grounds for punitive damages. Vancouver, Washington courts will consider several factors in considering whether or not to award punitive damages. For instance, the court might employ a sliding scale that weighs the immorality of the defendant's conduct against the actual harm that it caused to the plaintiff, and calculate damages accordingly.
You should be cognizant of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in Vancouver, 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.
Punitive damages in Vancouver, Washington usually cannot surpass 10 times the amount of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. Nonetheless, this is just a guideline, and not a strict rule. Courts in Washington have found larger punitive damage awards to be perfectly valid, and smaller ones to be invalid. This will be strongly dependent on the facts of each case.
How Can a Vancouver, Washington Attorney Help?
In Vancouver, Washington, there are a practically unlimited number of situtations in which punitive damages can be awarded.
If you have been injured in Vancouver, 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 Vancouver, Washington.