When a Greenville car accident attorney examines the circumstances of a crash, sometimes they realize that the at-fault driver was not only negligent, but acted with recklessness or willful conduct. In this case, any diligent attorney would advise the accident victim to file a personal injury lawsuit and seek punitive damages.
As there is a lot of misunderstanding concerning this type of damages awarded at the end of a trial, the car crash attorneys in Greenville at Hernandez & Cabra will discuss them in detail here. We believe that all victims deserve justice and fair financial compensation for their economic losses, pain and suffering. Since punitive damages represent a sizable amount of money (as we well explain below) it is in your best interests to be able to secure this form of compensation.
First of all, let us clarify how the law views punitive damages.
How Are Punitive Damages Awarded in South Carolina?
South Carolina Code of Laws Section 15-32-520 (D) specifies that a plaintiff (the victim) must prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant (the at-fault driver) behaved in a reckless, wanton or willful manner in causing the accident.
The jury will have to examine several aspects of the circumstances of the crash in order to evaluate such evidence, including:
- The existence of a past history of similar conduct – prior accidents or other traffic violations
- Whether the accident also resulted in criminal penalties against the at-fault driver
- The extent of the harm the defendant caused to the accident victim
- Whether the defendant tried to conceal the action – for instance, in case of a hit and run accident.
An experienced Greenville car accident attorney can usually find valuable evidence supporting your claim for punitive damages. Reckless and aggressive drivers usually have a long list of past traffic violations. In case of hit and run accidents, the police will act with all due diligence to identify the at-fault driver and hold them responsible for their actions.
What Are Some Clear Instances of Car Accidents Where Punitive Damages Can Be Awarded?
For many clients who come for an initial consultation with car crash attorneys in Greenville, the terms “reckless”, “wanton” and “willful” are not clear. They are not sure whether the other driver really acted beyond the usual level of negligence.
In our experience and from the outcomes of lawsuits we won for other clients, we know that judges and juries view the following cases a qualifying for punitive damages:
1. Driving under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
South Carolina juries are not at all sympathetic to drunk driver. The logic is simple: when you’ve drunk alcohol and still choose to drive, you knowingly put at risk other people’s lives. This translates into willful conduct – one of the prerequisites for seeking punitive damages.
2. Altering Truck Drivers’ Logs
Many accidents involving commercial vehicles are caused by the truck drivers’ drowsy driving. In the aftermath, a trucking company may attempt to alter the driver’s log in order to hide the fact that they had not taken the mandatory rest breaks as per the hours of service regulations.
This is again a willful conduct that tries to hide how sleep deprived the truck driver was at the moment when they caused the crash.
3. Aggressive Tailgating
Some drivers think that they own the road. They won’t let anyone stand in their way. Even if there is clearly no way of overtaking the car in front of them, aggressive drivers will bring their car dangerously close to it and display intimidating behavior, such as honking repeatedly.
Car accident attorneys in Greenville know that this type of driving leads to an accident in many cases. When a driver needs to apply the brakes suddenly, the tailgating driver does not have sufficient time and distance to avoid rear ending the vehicle in front of them.
4. Frequent Lane Changing
When they have enough space to overtake other cars, some drivers will keep changing the lanes, usually at a high speed. This is one of the classic instances of reckless driving, with no concern for the safety of other drivers and their passengers.
In most of the cases, this type of conduct makes the accident victim eligible to seek punitive damages.
5. Excessive Speeding
Sometimes, you may exceed the maximum speed a little without realizing it. But once you see a speed limit sign, you check your driving speed and adjust it. However, these signs are irrelevant for reckless drivers. They drive at top speed, even if there is heavy traffic or in bad weather conditions.
In general, this type of reckless behavior is easy to prove by a long history of speeding tickets. Thus, a Greenville car accident attorney can prove that the crash victim is entitled to receive punitive damages.
How Much Can You Seek in Punitive Damages?
When you file a personal injury lawsuit with a Greenville car accident attorney, you only specify that you seek punitive damages, but do not state any amount. South Carolina law puts a cap on the amount a jury may award, representing the greater amount between:
- Three times your damages and non-economic damages
There is an exception to this rule. When the defendant was driving under influence of alcohol or drugs or they intentionally hit your car, there is no cap to the punitive damages the jury may award you.
Our Greenville Car Accident Attorney Is Ready to Win Your Punitive Damages!
Any car accident is a traumatic experience for the innocent victims. However, in some cases, the at-fault driver manifests clear disregard for other people’s lives. This is when we step in to make sure that the victims receive the entire financial compensation they deserve, including punitive damages.
We will diligently seek all the necessary evidence to persuade a jury that the at fault driver acted with recklessness, wanton or willful conduct and that they should award the maximum punitive damages allowed by law. Also, we will offer you a free initial consultation to evaluate the merits of your case, so you have nothing to lose. Call us to schedule your consultation with an experienced Greenville car accident attorney: 864-310-7897!