Recovering Punitive Damages After an Oregon Truck Accident

After a person sustains injuries or property damage due to the negligent actions of a truck driver or trucking company, they may be able to recover compensation for their losses. This typically includes both economic and non-economic damages to cover medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. However, these types of damages are rare, and we want to explain the standard for awarding punitive damages for personal injury claims in Oregon.

What Are Punitive Damages?

When we look directly at Oregon law (ORS 31.730), we can see that punitive damages are typically not recoverable unless there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the negligent party acted with malice or showed reckless or outrageous indifference to a “highly unreasonable risk of harm” and continued their actions anyway.

You may often see punitive damages referred to as exemplary damages, and these are not technically related to the traditional economic and non-economic damages available in these cases. Usually, individuals are able to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage expenses, and various pain and suffering damages. None of these are considered punitive damages.

Punitive damages are designed as a punishment to the wrongdoer as well as a deterrent to any other actors who may have thought about or are currently engaging in the same types of behavior.

When working to determine the total amount of punitive damages to award, if they are available in the first place, a jury will use their judgment. The court will then review the punitive damages awarded by a jury to determine whether or not this is within the range of damages that a rational juror would be entitled to based on the entire record of the situation.

One thing we do want to point out is that Oregon has an unusual law in place. This law requires that 70% of the total punitive damage award be paid to the state of Oregon. The argument for this specific law is that punitive damages are supposed to be a punishment for the at-fault party and a deterrent to others, not compensation to the actual plaintiff.

Some examples of when punitive damages may be appropriate for a truck accident case include:

  • The truck driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Proven instances of the truck driver or trucking company violating state or federal regulations
  • Willingly operating a truck with known defects
  • Incidents of road rage or a driver intentionally causing harm

This is certainly not a complete list of when punitive damages may be available. We encourage you to work with your Portland truck accident lawyer to understand whether or not you may be entitled to these additional damages.

Will a Truck Accident Lawyer Help?

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of a truck driver or a trucking company, we encourage you to reach out to a skilled attorney as soon as possible. A truck accident lawyer in Oregon can walk you through this entire process, beginning with the investigation into the case all the way through to the trial.

Specifically, your attorney will work with trusted medical and economic experts to adequately calculate your total losses. In the event punitive damages are an option, your attorney will handle the process of securing them or at least argue that you should receive them based on the actions of the defendant(s).