Punitive Damages: Can a Plaintiff Recover Damages to Punish Someone Who Caused Injury to Them?

Published in Personal Injury on October 21, 2016

Normally in the State of Missouri, when you are injured by someone the amount that you can recover is limited to the amount that you were hurt. To make it overly simple, if you were in an auto accident that was not your fault and broke your leg, the damages would generally be limited to your “out-of-pocket” losses:  the medical bills, lost time at work, costs for rental car, compensation for the pain you experienced in your leg, etc.

Sometimes, if the person who injures you has acted intentionally or purposely, it may be possible to recover additional damages, called “punitive” damages. Punitive damages are damages that are awarded over and above your “out-of-pocket” losses to punishing someone who has acted intentionally and inappropriately; and punitive damages are designed to act as a deterrent for that person and for others who might want to act the same way.

Punitive damages are not intended to be given in every case. In fact, punitive damages are awarded sparingly by the Courts in Missouri.  The evidence of the intentional actions by the wrongdoer must be shown clearly and convincingly before a Court will grant punitive damages; and the amount of punitive damages can vary greatly depending upon the facts of each individual case.  If someone has injured you and you believe that they acted on purpose or with the intention of injuring you, then your attorney can work with you to see if punitive damages can be sought in your case.