It depends on the facts of your case.
In most lawsuits, the basis for the jury’s award is the loss sustained by the victim. The jury awards the damages according to the victim’s loss.
But punitive damages are awarded to the victim because of the defendant’s conduct. The worse the conduct is – at least according to the traditional development of the law – the greater the punitive damage award should be.
Punitive damages are usually awarded for conduct that is intentional, or at least much worse than negligence.
Here’s most of what you need to know about punitive damages in Ohio:
1) You can recover punitive damages when the defendant acts either: (a) intentionally; or (b) with malice – that is, when the defendant acts with “a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of another person that has a great probability of causing substantial harm”.
2) Punitive damages are not covered by insurance.
3) The Ohio legislature, in 2005, restricted punitive damage awards in personal injury cases as follows:
a. The punitive damages cannot exceed twice the compensatory damages, AND
b. If the case is against an individual or a small manufacturer (one with 250 or fewer employees), the punitive damages cannot exceed the smaller of $350,000 or 10% of the defendant’s net worth at the time of the accident AND
c. The right to punitive damages must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. (This is a legal distinction; in most civil cases, the victim only has to prove his or her damages by “the greater weight of the evidence.”
In short, punitive damages are more difficult to win than most people are aware. And because of the 2005 changes in the law, the awards are severely limited in many cases.
But to the extent that a punitive damage award is a legitimate possibility, it still creates a significant incentive for the insurance company – or the actual defendant – to settle the case.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. A legitimate claim for punitive damages will motivate the defendant to settle the case. If you have a personal injury case in Cincinnati, Ohio or if you want to know what your lawsuit is worth, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyer about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.