Contrary to what politicians and insurance companies want you to believe, punitive damages in injury and wrongful death cases are rare. South Carolina law only allows punitive damages to be awarded when we prove by clear and convincing evidence that the at-fault party was reckless, willful, or wanton in causing harm. What does that mean in plain English? That the defendant did something very wrong to cause injury or death. Examples include cases involving: a driver who was intoxicated at the time of the collision; a company that knew how dangerous its product was, yet chose to put profits ahead of safety; or a hospital that swept a doctor’s repeated acts of malpractice under the rug.
Punitive damages are not the same as compensation for pain, suffering, or permanent injury. Rather than compensate you for the harm you incurred, a punitive award is intended to punish defendants for their dangerous choices. Additionally, punitive damages are meant to discourage other people or companies from gambling with the public’s safety in the future by making an example out of the wrongdoer.
South Carolina’s legislature placed a cap on punitive damages a few years ago. Fortunately, the cap rarely applies to personal injury cases. Likewise, the cap is lifted under certain circumstances, including when the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you are reading this article, chances are you are either doing legal research or suffered significant harm in an accident that someone else caused. Either way, we are here to provide free information, educate the public, and ensure justice is served. To find out whether you have a valid claim for punitive damages in South Carolina, call us today for a free case evaluation at (803) 790-2800.