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Pros And Cons Of Seeking Punitive Damages In An Injury Case

When you're discussing your injury with a personal injury attorney and are evaluating the damages that you'll ask for, it's possible that your attorney will raise the issue of punitive damages. Legal professionals ask for punitive damages to not only get more money for their clients but to also send a message. Generally, punitive damages are reserved for cases in which the defendant showed a complete disregard for the injured person's safety. Here are some pros and cons of seeking punitive damages.

Pro: You'll Likely End Up With More Money

The biggest positive thing to know about punitive damages is that you have the potential to end up with significantly more money once your case is settled. In many cases, punitive damages can be extensive. For example, if your personal injury attorney had calculated that your case is worth about $75,000, he or she may ask for another $30,000 in punitive damages — pushing the money that you'll get over the six-figure mark.

Con: You Might Seem Greedy

Although most personal injury cases conclude with settlements, there are some that go to court. One of the factors to consider when you head to court is that your case is a matter of the public record, so there may be publicity surrounding it. Some people may be concerned that asking for punitive damages could make them seem greedy. The defendant's attorneys may even spin your case that way, which could result in you losing the favor or sympathy of the public.

Pro: You May Help To Protect Others

When a defendant has to pay punitive damages, it really sends a message that he or she was in the wrong. This could compel the person to work hard to avoid making a similar mistake like the one that led to your accident, which helps other people in your community in the future. For example, if a store deliberately avoided safety measures as a way to save money, having to pay punitive damages in your case should make the store take a safer approach in the future — something that is good for everyone.

Con: Your Case May Be More Likely To Go To Trial

Many personal injury attorneys try to stay away from going to court, preferring instead to settle with the defendant. Beyond being time-consuming, going to court could lead to you getting less than you might have received with a settlement. Some attorneys are strongly opposed to agreeing to a settlement that includes a demand for punitive damages, and this means that they might push for a trial.