Punitive damages are damages that an individual or company may receive in addition to damages designed to compensate an injured party for what they have lost and what they will lose in the future. Punitive damages will be assessed if the defendant's conduct is found to be willful, wanton, and malicious and/or reckless and/or with criminal indifference to the civil rights of others.
The law allows punitive damages in order to punish a wrongdoer and to create a deterrent effect through this punishment. Additionally, punitive damages are meant to set an example for others in order to encourage change for wrongful conduct.
When juries consider punitive damages and decide the amount to be assessed, they will be permitted to consider the profit that was made from the wrongful act committed by the defendant, the frequency of the wrong conduct, and whether the defendant accepted responsibility. Another important consideration is the overall wealth of the defendant. The greater the wrong, the greater the punitive damages should be. Additionally an award from a company of smaller wealth should be lower than a company that has greater assets.
Punitive damages allow our civil judicial system to both punish and set examples for others when a defendant's conduct is extremely bad. These types of damages will set examples for others and hopefully deter conduct that should not occur in an enlightened society.