Litigation Lawyers in St. Albans
Civil litigation in St. Albans, West Virginia 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.
Nonetheless, this general principle has a major exception. In rare cases, a St. Albans, West Virginia judge or jury can award damages to the plaintiff that are not calculated by the actual losses sustained. Instead, they serve the purpose of punishing the defendant, and deterring others from wrongdoing. These are called "punitive damages."
It's important to note that courts in St. Albans, West Virginia 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 St. Albans, West Virginia
The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in St. Albans, West Virginia 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 St. Albans, West Virginia.
Punitive damages in St. Albans, West Virginia are not authorized in many cases. They are only awarded when the defendant's conduct was so deplorable and deliberate (but not necessarily criminal) that punishment is warranted. Fraud, battery, conversion (theft) and other intentional, insidious acts are usually required before punitive damages in St. Albans, West Virginia will be considered. Furthermore, in deciding how much to award in punitive damages, a court will consider 2 main factors: the insidious nature of the defendant's conduct, and the actual harm that the plaintiff suffered as a result.
Nonetheless, in St. Albans, West Virginia, the law places limits on punitive damages. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled various times that punitive damages cannot be grossly disproportionate to the evil nature of the conduct, and the injuries that the defendant suffered. If they are disproportionate, punitive damages might be considered a deprivation of the defendant's right to due process of law.
In St. Albans, West Virginia, punitive damage awards are typically (but not always) capped at 10 times the amount awarded in compensatory damages. Remember, however, that this is just a basic rule of thumb, and is not completely rigid. In West Virginia, 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 specific punitive damage award will depend heavily on the facts of each case.
How Can a St. Albans, West Virginia Attorney Help?
In St. Albans, West Virginia, 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 are involved in a case in St. Albans, West Virginia that you believe might entitle you to punitive damages, a lot of money could be at stake. So, if you want to pursue your legal remedies, you should see a St. Albans, West Virginia civil litigation attorney as soon as possible.