What are punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Punitive damages are only awarded to a victim if there are clear circumstances that the actions of the at-fault party are deemed so egregious by the court (either the judge or jury) that punishment is justified.  In Virginia, punitive damages can be awarded if the at-fault party’s actions were, “wantonly, oppressively, or with such malice as to evince a spirit of malice or criminal indifference to civil obligations.

Criminal punishment is only allowed to be imposed in criminal cases, not civil cases. Punitive damages are the court’s way of implementing a “civil fine” that the at-fault party must pay the victim.