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Can I recover punitive damages after a car accident?

Being injured in a car accident can throw your life upside down. You might be left with extensive physical pain, emotional suffering and struggling to survive financially. Medical bills and lost wages can leave you completely overwhelmed and unsure about your future. As previous posts here have discussed, you might be able to recover compensation for your damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. If successful on your claim, then you may be awarded money to cover your incurred and expected medical expenses and your lost wages, and maybe even future wages, if your injury will keep you out of work for the long-term.

Although this compensation can help you get back on your feet and acquire the medical care you need, you still might feel like the individual who harmed you should be punished more. This is where seeking punitive damages can be helpful. Under Illinois law, an individual can seek these damages as a way to punish the defendant and deter others from acting in a similar fashion.

Punitive damages, however, are limited. In fact, under the law, they cannot exceed three times the amount of regular damages owed. This limit is dissolved, however, if the defendant was charged and convicted of a criminal charge related to the incident.

Proving that punitive damages are warranted can be challenging. In order to recover them, you must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's acts that caused the accident were commenced with either evil motive or outrageous indifference to unreasonable risk of harm and danger other's safety.

Source: Illinois Legislature, "735 ILCS 5/2-111.05," accessed on March 28, 2016

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