Recent posts on this blog have focused on the issue of what damages may be available in hit-and-run accident cases in Colorado. We’ve already spoken briefly about economic and non-economic damages. There is another type of damages, though, that we would like to discuss in this post: punitive damages.
Punitive or exemplary damages are a unique category of damages because they are only available in certain types of cases, and for a purpose quite different from compensatory damages. While compensatory damages are intended to compensate the accident victim for his or her injuries and other losses, punitive damages are intended to punish the offender in a civil context and to deter other from acting the same way.
In Colorado, punitive damages are only available in cases where the defendant has acted out of fraud or malice, or with reckless disregard of the consequences. Because of the nature of hit-and-run cases, punitive damages may be available to plaintiffs in these cases. Making a strong argument for punitive damages is not easy, though, and it is essential to work with an advocate who understands the law and how to present a strong case in court.
Another thing to keep in mind about punitive damages is that an award usually may not exceed the compensatory damages award, except in certain circumstances. Maximizing compensatory damages is obviously important in and of itself, but it is also important for the purpose of maximizing the amount of punitive damages available. Maximizing damages does not, however, guarantee that the accident victim will always be able to collect on a judgment.
In our next post, we’ll talk about cases involving drivers who flee from the scene because of a lack of insurance coverage and what this means in terms of recovering damages.