Can You Recover Punitive Damages from a Car Accident in NY?

You were involved in a car accident and were seriously injured. You know that you can receive compensation for your medical expenses. You can also recover for pain and suffering damages, but may wonder about punitive damages, which are damages used to punish the party at fault. Find out how you may be able to collect punitive damages after a New York auto wreck.

Establishing Liability: Negligence

New York has various standards for establishing liability in personal injury cases, including vehicle collision cases. Generally, the liability is based on a theory of negligence. This occurs when a party owes a duty to someone and they breach that duty. Here, a driver owes everyone on the road (other drivers and pedestrians) a duty to drive carefully. If they breach that duty by failing to stop at a stop sign or breaking the speed limit, and someone is injured as a result, then they can be held liable for their behavior. 

Strict Liability

Another standard for establishing liability in New York is strict liability. The strict liability standard doesn’t require proof of negligence. Rather, this occurs when the car accident stems from a vehicle defect. As long as a company sells a defective vehicle or part, and the defect leads to the accident or to the accident-related injuries, then the company can be held liable to the accident victim.

Standard for Punitive Damages

If you’re seeking a claim for punitive damages in New York, you must show that the wrongdoer’s actions were “extreme, egregious or immoral conduct” that is worthy of punishment.  

Circumstances that Can Support a Recovery of Punitive Damages

Because “extreme, egregious or immoral conduct” is a term of art, unfamiliar to most, it’s difficult to understand when this criterion is met. Here are examples of the type of conduct that may apply to the awarding of punitive damages:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Because driving under the influence of alcohol is a known criminal offense with a proven track record of causing tremendous harm to victims, you can often file a claim for punitive damages in these cases. If a driver is on drugs like marijuana or other controlled substances, it’s treated similarly to alcohol.
  • Street racing or excessive speeding: Driving at high speeds creates a risk of harm to everyone on the road. This is also the case for street racing, a dangerous crime.
  • Knowingly selling defective vehicles or defective parts: When a company sells a product with the knowledge of the defect, juries have awarded punitive damages to the victims in those cases.

Seeking Punitive Damages After your Car Accident

When considering punitive damages, you will file a claim as you normally would, but there are some things to keep in mind like reporting the accident right away and following your doctor’s advice thoroughly. You don’t want to make your claim harder to prove. Even following this, you can’t do it alone: You need the experience of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Get in touch with one of our MOW Law New York personal injury attorneys right away to determine where you stand.