If you have been injured due to the actions of another person or party, it is understandable that you would want to hold that party accountable, not only for the purposes of recovering financial compensation, but also for achieving a sense of justice. You may even feel that the other party should be punished for their actions. In Illinois, it is sometimes possible to pursue such a punishment in the form of punitive damages. However, the situations in which punitive damages may be included in a personal injury claim are limited, and it is important to understand whether and how they may apply to your case.
When Are Punitive Damages Available?
In most Illinois personal injury cases, the damages recovered by the injury victim fall entirely within the category of compensatory damages. These are damages that are intended to compensate the victim directly for some sort of loss—whether a financial loss like medical expenses or lost wages, or a personal loss like pain and suffering, disfigurement, or loss of companionship.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not connected to any specific loss on the part of the victim. Instead, they are meant as punishment for the liable party. As such, they are not available when a person was injured due to an act of simple negligence; they are only available when the liable party acted with “evil motive” or “reckless and outrageous” and “conscious indifference.” When deciding whether to award punitive damages, the court will look for clear and convincing evidence of these factors....