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What Are Punitive Damages and How Do They Work in Wisconsin Personal Injury Cases?

Posted on in Personal Injury

Wisconsin injury attorney, Wisconsin accident lawyer, Wisconsin injury statutesIn personal injury cases, there are several different types of damages you may potentially be able to recover. One type of damages that is not well understood is punitive damages. These are a special kind of damages that are not available in all personal injury cases. They are only for extreme situations.

The Purpose of Punitive Damages

Most legal damages are designed to pay a party back for what they have lost due to the actions of another party. Money is usually the only way our court system has of making people “whole” after an accident. But, punitive damages, as the name suggests, are designed to punish defendants who acted beyond the normal boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Punitive damages are also designed to deter other people and companies from acting badly.

The Wisconsin Approach

Recently, under the guise of “tort reform”, Wisconsin placed caps on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. Punitive damages are limited to the greater of $200,000 or two times the amount awarded for compensatory damages. Wisconsin makes it difficult for plaintiffs to win punitive damages by making them only available in cases where the defendant intentionally disregarded the rights of the plaintiff or acted willful, wanton, or maliciously toward them. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has repeatedly held that plaintiffs must meet a high burden to win punitive damages.

How They Impact Your Personal Injury Case

Punitive damages in Wisconsin personal injury cases are rare. Because of the cost of trial, the difficulty in winning them, the likelihood of an appeal, and the caps on the amount of punitive damages, it isn’t worth it to seek them in many cases.

Even if you are successful at trial in winning an award of punitive damages, you may encounter some obstacles. The other side will may appeal the punitive damage award, and perhaps the entire case. This can delay your recovery of any money. Many insurance policies do not cover punitive damages. This means that even if you win the damages, it may difficult to ever collect any of the punitive damages.

However, punitive damages still play an important role. In cases where they are appropriate they still send a powerful message to people and companies that certain extreme behavior is not acceptable in our society.

If you or someone you love has been hurt because of someone else’s actions, you need to talk with a tough and knowledgeable Milwaukee personal injury attorney. You only have so much time to bring a claim. Call the law firm of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP at 414-271-1440 today to setup your consultation.


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