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Punitive Damages in a North Carolina Injury Claim

Under North Carolina law, if you are injured due to the actions or behavior of another party, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against that party for compensatory damages.  Examples of different types of injury claims are vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, defective or dangerous products, premises liability, and railroad/FELA injuries. There are several different types of compensatory damages you may be awarded in an injury or accident claim. These include past and future medical expenses, loss of past wages, loss of future income, disability, disfigurement, scarring, and pain and suffering.

Punitive Damages vs. Compensatory Damages

North Carolina’s tort law also allows victims to seek punitive damages under certain situations. Whereas the purpose of compensatory damages is to replace what was lost – such as lost wages from missed time from work – the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault party for their egregious behavior. If a victim is entitled to compensatory damages, then under the law, they may also be entitled to punitive damages if one or more of these factors apply:

  • The at-fault party acted with willful or wanton conduct;
  • The at-fault party acted with malice; or
  • The at-fault party committed fraud.

A good example of the type of injury case where punitive damages may be awarded is a drunk driving car accident. In these accidents, your North Carolina car accident attorney will likely be able to prove that by getting behind the wheel of their vehicle after they had been drinking, the at-fault driver demonstrated willful or wanton conduct per the statute’s definition:

“The conscious and intentional disregard of and indifference to the rights and safety of others, which the defendant knows or should know is reasonably likely to result in injury, damages, or other harm.”

Normally, there is a cap of how much a victim can receive in punitive damages. The law states that the amount cannot exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or $250,000, whichever is the greater amount. However, the law places no cap on punitive damages in personal injury cases where the at-fault party was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This also applies to wrongful death cases.

Let a NC Accident Attorney Fight for You

If you have been injured in an accident caused by the actions of someone else, contact a skilled North Carolina personal injury attorney to discuss what legal options you may have. This is especially critical if you are dealing with the at-fault party’s insurance company, who will do their best to minimize or even deny your claim if you do not have an attorney advocating for you. Our Carolina’s personal injury and wrongful death law firm have successfully represented many clients in obtaining the best financial outcome possible using all available resources.

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