Punitive Damages in Mississippi Personal Injury Cases
Many people are injured in car accidents in Mississippi every day, ranging from bumps and bruises in a minor fender-bender to catastrophic injuries in a severe collision. There are laws that allow a victim to recover compensation for these losses, typically from a driver whose negligent actions led to the incident. However, there are situations where a motorist’s conduct goes far beyond simple carelessness; his or her actions were actually reckless, willful, or intentional. Mississippi law addresses the needs of victims when their lives are forever changed by this type of misconduct, allowing them to recover punitive damages under certain circumstances. While only an experienced personal injury attorney can tell you whether your situation warrants this type of claim, you may find some basic information useful.
Compensatory Versus Punitive Damages
When injuries are a result of negligence, the type of damages available to the victim usually fall in the category of compensatory. They’re intended as reimbursement, and to put the injured person into the same relative position he or she would have been if the accident never occurred.
Punitive damages are, as the term suggests, intended to punish the wrongdoer for acting intentionally or recklessly. In addition, the potential for punitive damages in a personal injury case can serve another purpose: To deter other individuals from engaging in willful conduct that puts other people at risk of injury or death.
Mississippi Law on Punitive Damages
State law allows injured victims to seek punitive damages where they can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the responsible person or party acted with:
- Gross negligence that shows a willful disregard for the safety of others; and/or,
- Committed actual fraud.
Still, the statute doesn’t allow a jury to even consider punitive damages until after making a decision on whether compensatory damages are proper. Once jurors award a verdict in favor of the injured victim as compensation for his or her losses, the court conducts a separate hearing for punitive damages.
Cases Where Punitive Damages May Be Available
The statutory requirements for punitive damages are quite strict, but it’s possible to obtain an award in certain types of cases. For auto accident cases, you may be able to seek punitive damages for:
- Manslaughter accidents;
- Reckless driving;
- Hit-and-run, or fleeing the scene of the accident;
- Drunk driving incidents; and,
- Engaging in criminal behavior while operating a vehicle, such as trying to outrun police during a high-speed chase.
A Biloxi Lawyer Will Pursue the Compensation You Deserve
Regardless of whether your circumstances qualify for a punitive damage claim, a personal injury attorney can assist you in pursuing the fullest extent of damages allowed by law. It’s critical to prove every element of your case in order to recover financially, which can be difficult if you don’t have a legal background. If you’ve been injured in any type of accident, please contact the Law Offices of Judy Guice in Biloxi, MS. Our experienced lawyers have the knowledge and skills you need on your side when pursuing the responsible party for compensatory or punitive damages.