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What Are Punitive Damages? Can I Seek Them in My Virginia Personal Injury Case Involving A Trucking Accident?

After being involved in a trucking accident with a driver who was drowsy, your attorney finds out a year into litigation against the trucking company that the driver who hit you had been working for almost two days straight without sleep, but the trucking company he was working for alters its drivers’ logs to make it seem as if the drivers are driving less than they actually are. Despite federal and state laws meant to prohibit this exact type of misbehavior, the company has been doing it for years without being caught until the driver accidentally lets it slip in a deposition in your personal injury lawsuit that the company was doing this. To make matters worse, there is an online training that shows the truck drivers exactly how to game the system in order to drive more hours than legally permitted. This is exactly the type of case that calls for the award of punitive damages by a Virginia jury.

Punitive damages are a special class of damages meant to punish a wrongdoer who has knowingly acted in a manner that resulted in personal injuries to another party. They are also meant to send a message to the wrongdoer (in this instance the particular trucking company) and to deter others from engaging in similar misbehavior (in this case to discourage others in the trucking industry from doing similarly). Not every case is right for seeking an award of punitive damages against the defendant because there is a very high bar that must be satisfied before punitive damages can be awarded. However, the experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman have successfully sought punitive damages before on behalf of our clients who have been injured in a motor vehicle or trucking accidents.

Rules and Limits on Punitive Damages in Virginia

In Virginia, in order to recover punitive damages, a plaintiff (the injured party) must show that the defendant acted knowingly and with malice. Translated into plain English, this means that the defendant must have been consciously (i.e. knowing what it was doing) acting in reckless indifference to consequences while knowing someone else would likely be injured. In the example above, the accident victim would need to show that the trucking company knew that its policy was likely to result in injuries to those who were on the road with its trucks but that it went forward with this policy anyway, not caring that its exhausted drivers would cause accidents that would kill or seriously injure other drivers. In this scenario, that likely may not be too difficult, given that laws against drivers being on the road for too long exist exactly to prevent accidents like this from occurring and the company deliberately broke the law and trained its drivers to do the same in a way that would drastically increase the risk of those drivers being involved in accidents.

In Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000. However, the jury is not told about this limitation prior to rendering its decision, so it is free to award whatever amount it sees fit in a particular case if it finds for the plaintiff. If a jury awards more than $350,000 to a plaintiff in punitive damages, then the judge will reduce whatever amount the jury award of punitive damages was to $350,000 at the time that the judge enters the final judgment against the defendant and for the injured party.

Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman

At Kalfus & Nachman, our experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys have recovered millions in compensation for our clients who have been injured due to someone else’s negligence. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have successfully sought and obtained punitive damages on behalf of our clients in a variety of cases, including trucking accidents. Not every case is right for punitive damages, but if your case merits seeking punitive damages, then we will fight for you to obtain the maximum compensation you are entitled to under Virginia law, including punitive damages. Therefore, if you live in the Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach or Roanoke, Virginia, areas and have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence in a motor vehicle accident, a trucking accident, or in any other scenario, then please contact Kalfus & Nachman PC by phone today at (855) 880-8163 or through the form on this page to schedule a free consultation regarding your particular situation.

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