Punitive Damages in Oregon

If you or somebody you care about has sustained an injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual, company, or entity, you will likely be able to recover some form of compensation for your losses. The compensation awarded after an injury typically revolves around medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and loss of quality of life damages. These are typically referred to as “economic” and “non-economic” damages. However, there are times when punitive damages are also awarded in the aftermath of a personal injury claim.

What are punitive damages?

Punitive damages are best described as compensation that is awarded to an injury victim that are designed to punish the wrongdoer. Additionally, these damages are meant to send a signal to others that the type of behavior and/or actions that led to the injury are unacceptable and to deter others from acting in a similar manner.

In Oregon, it is possible for an injury victim to be awarded punitive damages. However, the vast majority of personal injury claims do not result in punitive damages at all. That is because it is necessary for an injury victim to establish that the at-fault party’s behavior was particularly egregious, intentional, or socially unacceptable. If the injury victim does have such evidence, then they or their attorney can file a motion to their complaint so that punitive damages can be requested as part of the lawsuit.

Courts in Oregon have ruled over time about what kinds of behavior will typically allow punitive damage awards. Criminal behavior, which is clearly not socially accepted, could give rise to claims for punitive damages. Some of the most common types of criminal behaviors that cause injuries that could result in punitive damages include assault, battery, and DUI.

Are there limitations on the amount of punitive damages awarded?

Courts in Oregon have continually limited punitive damages and have also made rulings that seem to undo the limits of punitive damages. Unfortunately, punitive damages are relatively subjective, and the court may or may not uphold the total amount of punitive damages awarded in a particular case.

One particular concern about punitive damages in an Oregon personal injury case is that the state will take 70% of the punitive damages awarded in the case. There have been a few exceptions when plaintiffs have received more than 30% of the punitive damages, but these cases are few and far between.

Work with an attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured due to the actions of another individual or entity, it is crucial that you work with a skilled Portland personal injury attorney as soon as possible. In general, your injury case is going to revolve around economic and non-economic damages, so it is crucial that you get an attorney to help properly compensate your total losses. If, during the course of their investigation, your attorney uncovers evidence that would likely lead to punitive damages being awarded on your behalf, your attorney will help you file the motions necessary to receive such compensation.

Additionally, by working with an attorney and simply threatening to pursue punitive damages, an insurance carrier may be encouraged to offer more money during settlement negotiations. An attorney will be able to help with all negotiations as well as preparing for a full trial if necessary.