Can I Get Punitive Damages After a Car Accident?

Punitive damages are not awarded to reimburse losses suffered by an injured party in an accident. Instead, the courts use them primarily to punish grossly negligent conduct.

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The New York City car accident lawyers from Douglas and London are standing by, ready to advocate for you. We have represented injured parties in car accident lawsuits for more than twenty years. We use that experience to collect the largest available awards for our clients, including economic and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages– if the facts of an accident warrant it.

What Kind of Car Accident Cases Will Justify a Punitive Damages Award?

A driver’s negligence or recklessness causes the vast majority of car crashes. An injured party will be entitled to receive compensation for their losses but not punitive damages. Further, a lawyer will be more likely to justify a punitive damages award in extreme situations, including when a driver:

  • intentionally drives a vehicle toward another vehicle or pedestrian.
  • drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol (punitive damages are more likely in this scenario if the negligent motorist has a history of driving under the influence).
  • operates a vehicle that has known serious safety problems, including bad brakes or worn tires.

What do Courts Consider in Awarding Punitive Damages?

When an individual is seeking punitive damages, a court will consider the negligent party’s net worth, the likelihood that they will repeat their reckless behavior, as well as the injuries suffered by the current victim.

Deterring future bad behavior is a critical element in awarding punitive damages. If a court perceives that a car crash was the result of a one-time lapse in judgment, it will be far less likely to issue a punitive damages award.

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Does New York State Allow a Separate Cause of Action for Punitive Damages?

Unlike other states, New York does not require an injured party to plead a special cause of action for these damages in a lawsuit. Instead, a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer will include specific details of an accident in the body of a complaint. They will do this to show that a defendant’s negligent conduct was so egregious as to justify punitive damages.

Should an Injured Car Accident Victim File a Lawsuit Even if Punitive Damages May Not Be Awarded?

In every lawsuit, these damages are only one of several components that an accident victim may be entitled to collect. Even if the facts of an accident do not justify punitive damages, an individual will be able to recover reimbursement for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and more. This individual might also be entitled to recover non-economic damages for pain and suffering as well as the loss of family relationships.

New York does not place any limits on the total amount of damages that a person may collect. Every car accident victim should review the facts with an attorney in New York. In almost every case, they will be able to help the victim recover significant compensation, even if the facts of the accident do not justify punitive damages. 

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The types of damages that an individual might be able to recover, including economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, will always depend on the specific facts and circumstances of each case.

If you have suffered injuries in a car accident in Manhattan, the Bronx, Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, or anywhere else in New York, please see our website or call us to consult with our team of New York City personal injury lawyers. We will fight to recover the largest amount of compensation that you deserve to recover from a negligent party and that party’s insurance company.  


  1. Top 10 Points on Punitive Damages.
  2. Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages: What’s the Difference?
  3. Punitive Damages.