When you file a lawsuit arising out of an automobile collision in Maryland, the jury may award you two different types of damages. You are always entitled to “compensatory damages.” Compensatory damages are awarded to make you whole again, to compensate you for everything you’ve lost (or will lose) as a result of the automobile collision.
There is also a second type of damages, called “punitive damages.” These are much rarer than compensatory damages (and can only be awarded if the jury also awards you compensatory damages). The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate you, the victim, but rather to punish the wrongdoer – although you are still the recipient of the award.
Maryland strictly limits the circumstances in which the jury may award punitive damages in an automobile collision case. To put it simply, punitive damages cannot be awarded in a car accident case – but can be awarded when the wrongdoer intentionally uses his car as a weapon to hurt someone. This means, for example, that punitive damages cannot be awarded in a typical drunk driving accident (whereas punitive damages could be awarded in a drunk driving accident under the law of neighboring Virginia).
The advantage of punitive damages, of course, is that you may receive an extra award from the jury on top of all the losses that you have suffered. Under Maryland law, a jury should be particularly inclined to award punitive damages where (1) the wrongdoer’s conduct is egregious, (2) the wrongdoer has the financial means to pay the award, and (3) the victim has incurred substantial expense in bringing the case to trial.
If you have questions about what sort of award you can obtain in your automobile collision case, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.