Can I get punitive damages in Utah injury cases?

It is essential to understand the difference between punitive damages and compensatory damages in an injury case. Compensatory damages are what we think of most often when a person is involved in an accident. They are monetary awards designed to compensate a person once they have been injured. This includes things like the cost of a totaled vehicle, medical expenses, or recovery bills such as chiropractor visits or physical therapy. On the other hand, punitive damages are not meant to compensate the injured victim. However, the plaintiff may be awarded some of the punitive funds that have been awarded.

Why do punitive damages exist?

The main idea behind punitive damages is to punish the defendant. This is usually the case is they showed a wanton disregard for the general safety of others. These fines are meant to discourage others from exhibiting the same outrageous behavior. Much like a jail sentence, it is intended to warn others that they may face the same sanctions if they do the same actions or exhibit the same levels of negligence. Once a court awards compensatory damages, it is authorized to award punitive damages if the offending party’s conduct was “willful and malicious,” “intentionally fraudulent,” or “manifests a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of, the rights of others.” Punitive damages are not awarded for mere inadvertence, mistake, errors of judgment, and the like, which constitute ordinary negligence. They are not ordinarily permitted merely for a breach of contract unless the offending party’s conduct creates a claim for fraud independent of the contract itself.

Factors that determine the number of punitive damages

Because these damages are designed to punish a defendant, several factors go into determining the amount owed. Below is the following list of items that will be considered.

  1. The relative wealth of the offender,
  2. Nature of the misconduct,
  3. Circumstances surrounding the conduct,
  4. Effect on the lives of the plaintiff and others,
  5. Probability of its recurrence,
  6. Relationship of the parties
  7. Amount of actual damages awarded.

Utah has a split recovery statute that states that plaintiffs shall only receive up to $50,000. If the amount surpasses the initial $50,000, then the remaining balance must be split with the state at a 50/50 ratio. The balance awarded is also taxable and counted as general income. Although there are financial aspects to consider, punitive damages are designed to send a message rather than increase the overall lifestyle of those affected by the behavior. Contact The Law Offices of Roberto Hernandez if you live in Utah and believe that you have been injured due to negligence or even intentional misconduct.


The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. This website contains general information relating to areas of law familiar to our firm. The information should not be construed as legal advice or other professional advice. You should not rely on the contents of this website as such. Participation on this website does not create any kind of attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice or representation, please contact my office, and I would be pleased to discuss your case with you and see if my firm can help.