Punitive Damages in Chicago Car Accident Cases


Following a car wreck, a victim may be able to recover economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. However, it is not common for a jury to award punitive damages in Chicago car accident cases. Punitive damages require certain reprehensible conduct, willful and wanton misconduct, fraud, or intentional actions by the defendant that justify the award of punitive damages. Merely showing that a defendant was negligent is not enough to award punitive damages.

If you were injured in a car collision, you may be able to recover punitive damages with the help of a car accident attorney. Contact a dedicated lawyer who has experience helping individuals recovering car crash damages.

Factors Influencing Punitive Damages

To make a claim for willful and wanton misconduct that allows for the recovery of punitive damages, one must show some kind of reprehensible conduct done by the defendant. The plaintiff’s lawyer must properly assert a claim to recover punitive damages by showing the:

  • Facts and circumstances of the defendant’s conduct
  • Financial and other vulnerabilities of the plaintiff
  • Duration of the misconduct
  • Frequency of the defendant’s misconduct

A seasoned car wreck lawyer identifies whether the harm was physical as opposed to economic and whether the defendant tried to conceal the misconduct after the plaintiff was injured. Other factors may contribute to a determination that the defendant’s conduct was reprehensible.

When Might the Jury Award Punitive Damages?

The courts consider many factors to identify punitive damages in Chicago car accident cases. The law permits a plaintiff under specific limited circumstances to receive an award of punitive damages. If the jury determines that the defendant’s conduct was fraudulent, intentional, or willful and wanton and is proximately the cause of the injury and damage to the plaintiff, it may award punitive damage. The jury must find that justice and the public good require the award of punitive damages. It may award an amount of money to punish the defendant to discourage them and others from similar conduct in the future.

The jury determines whether the harm was physical as opposed to economic and whether the defendant tried to conceal the misconduct, engaged in other actions to facilitate the misconduct, or otherwise contributed to the conduct being held and considered reprehensible.

Another factor the jury considers is the actual and potential harm the defendant’s conduct did to the plaintiff and the actual harm the plaintiff suffered. The jury decides the amount of money needed to punish the defendant and discourage them and others from future wrongful conduct taking into consideration the defendant’s financial condition.

Punitive damages send a message to a defendant and everyone like them that certain misconduct is not tolerated. If someone engages in that conduct, they will suffer severe economic consequences. The punitive damages must be reasonable and in proportion to the actual and potential harm suffered by the plaintiff. In that regard, the actual damage suffered by the plaintiff becomes an essential factor when determining the appropriate amount of punitive damages.

Common Scenarios Leading to Punitive Damages

Texting and using a cellphone while driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are two examples of activities that could lead to punitive damages being awarded in a car accident case.

It is challenging to prove that a person was on the phone exactly at the time of the accident. However, if one can do that, they have a chance of being able to prove willful and wanton misconduct.

The most common scenario of when punitive damages are awarded in car accident cases is when the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. When the at-fault driver is arrested and the police do a breathalyzer test, that provides objective evidence that the person had a certain blood alcohol level or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident.

How a Chicago Lawyer Could Help Recover Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case

Recovering punitive damages in Chicago car accident cases is not common, but an accomplished lawyer could review the facts of your situation to determine whether you could be eligible. If your case warrants punitive damages, a seasoned attorney could fight for your right to recover them. Reach out to our team today to set up your consultation.

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