Most of the public is probably familiar with the term ‘punitive damages’ because of jury verdicts they hear about in the news. But when a case goes to trial, punitive damages are awarded in a small number of personal injury cases. To be awarded punitive damages, the behavior of the defendant must be especially reckless and reprehensible and deserving of stiff punishment. 

Unlike regular compensatory damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and are not connected to an injury. 
Punitive damages generally are possible when the judge or jury finds intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Other states require the defendant to have acted with malice, recklessness or deceit. 

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