Compensatory damages are for injuries. Punitive damages are to punish someone financially for their actions. The following is descriptive, legal definition of punitive damages:
A defendant has acted with deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others if the defendant has knowledge of facts or intentionally disregards facts that create a high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others and: (1) deliberately proceeds to act in conscious or intentional disregard of the high degree of probability of injury to the rights or safety of others; or (2) deliberately proceeds to act with indifference to the high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others.
Punitive damages are awarded over and above the damages for injuries. There are three reasons to seek punitive damages:
- to punish
- to force the defendant to refrain from committing the offense again
- to discourage others from committing the offense
Some reasons why judges award punitive damages:
- the seriousness of hazard to the public arising from the defendant's misconduct
- the duration of the misconduct and any concealment of it, the degree of the defendant's awareness of the hazard and of its excessiveness
- the attitude and conduct of the defendant upon discovery of the misconduct
- the financial condition of the defendant
- the total effect of other punishment likely to be imposed upon the defendant as a result of the misconduct, including compensatory and punitive damage awards to the plaintiff
- the severity of any criminal penalty to which the defendant may be subject
Minnesota Statute § 549.20 states that punitive damages shall be awarded if it is proved by clear and convincing evidence that the Defendant deliberately disregarded the safety of others.
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