What Are Punitive Damages?

You may have heard of receiving compensation for punitive damages if someone else’s actions have hurt you or a loved one. In Nevada, punitive damages are awarded in specific cases and are meant to punish wrongdoing when the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious. But what exactly are punitive damages, and how do you know if you qualify for them in your case? Below we’ll discuss punitive damages, their purpose, and if you are in a position to receive them. We’ll also look at the types of cases that qualify for punitive damages in Nevada.

Punitive Damages court hearing

A person harmed or wronged by another person or business may be given punitive or exemplary damages as compensation. Punitive damages exist separate from and in addition to compensatory damages, and they can go above and beyond any actual losses incurred. They are available in certain types of civil cases.

In Nevada, a jury will determine the appropriate level of punitive damages. This amount is typically determined by the defendant’s financial resources, their level of intent, and the severity of the harm they caused. The maximum amount of punitive damages that can be awarded is typically three times the total amount of compensatory damages the plaintiff was given; however, this cap may be raised in situations where the defendant’s behavior was particularly outrageous or grievous.

What Is the Purpose of Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are an effective tool that can help hold offenders responsible for their actions, prevent further wrongdoing, and guarantee that victims are fairly compensated for their injuries. They are intended to punish the offender for particularly bad or reckless conduct, such as when someone intentionally causes harm to others or consciously disregards their well-being. For example, when a person knows the likely harmful consequences of a wrongful act and yet willfully and deliberately fails to make a choice to avoid those consequences, they act with conscious disregard.

Punitive damages are only permitted in Nevada when the actions that resulted in an accident or injury involved “fraud,” “malice,” or “oppression,” as detailed below:

  • Fraud is the intentional misrepresentation, deception, or concealment of a material fact to deprive you of your property or rights or to harm you in some other way.
  • Malice is conduct deemed recklessly indifferent to another person’s rights, life, or welfare. It’s acting with a conscious disregard for that person’s rights and safety or with the purposeful intent to do harm.
  • Oppression is conduct that subjects you to cruel and unjust hardships with a conscious disregard for your rights.

In Nevada, punitive damages are also subject to a cap that is determined by the total amount of compensatory damages awarded. Punitive damages are limited to $300,000 if compensatory damages are less than $100,000. When compensatory damages exceed $100,000, punitive damages are limited to three times the amount awarded. In medical malpractice claims, your punitive damages are capped at $350,000. Punitive damages are unlimited in cases involving defamation, bad faith insurance, discriminatory housing practices, harm caused by toxic or hazardous substances, and defective products.

How Can You Receive Punitive Damages?

Winning your personal injury case is the first step to receiving punitive damages. Most personal injury cases require you to show that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to you and, in turn, that the breach or conduct caused your injuries or harm. Once you win your case, you must ask the jury to award punitive damages. Then you must show that the defendant intended to injure or harm you and acted with malice, fraud, or oppression. In addition, you’ll need proof that their conduct was atrocious compared to a typical negligence case.

If the jury agrees to award you exemplary damages, they will determine the amount at a later hearing. Depending on the amount the jury awards you, the judge may reduce it based on the defendant’s financial circumstances and to comply with legal limitations.

What Types of Cases Qualify for Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are not always available in personal injury cases because the law requires the defendant to have acted deliberately in a fraudulent, malicious, or oppressive manner. However, Nevada has identified two types of cases that are eligible for punitive damages through a statute:

Driving Under the Influence

Nevada law NRS 42.010 allows punitive damages in cases involving drunk driving and driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

Suing an Employer for an Employee’s Conduct

When the negligent conduct of an employee injures you, you may request the employer pay punitive damages. An employer is responsible for the wrongful conduct of their employee and liable for exemplary damages when:

  • The employer had advanced knowledge that the employee was a risk to the rights and safety of others.
  • The employer expressly authorized or approved the wrongful act of the employee for which the damages are awarded.
  • The employer is personally guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.

Additional Cases

There is no limit to the total punitive damages you can recover in Nevada if your case involves any of the following:

  • Insurers who failed to provide insurance coverage in bad faith.
  • Product liability cases against manufacturers, sellers, or distributors of a defective product.
  • Environmental pollution cases involving injury or damages caused by the emission, disposal, or spilling of toxic, radioactive, or hazardous materials.
  • Violations of anti-discriminatory housing practices and laws.
  • Defamation.

How Can De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers Help You?

The experienced team at De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers has been fighting to protect Nevada residents’ rights in and out of the courtroom for over a decade. Our criminal law team includes several former state and federal prosecutors knowledgeable in the ways the prosecution builds cases and, in turn, how to construct a solid defense. In addition, we are skilled in defending against various criminal charges, such as domestic violence and drug-related offenses.

For more information, call us today at 702-827-4891 or complete our secure online contact form. Our renowned criminal defense attorneys are ready to take on your case and get you the compensation you deserve.

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