In any auto accident, a person who suffers due to another driver’s negligence may seek compensation for their injuries and pain and suffering. The compensation for these cases typically covers accident-related costs, such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage costs, and other relevant expenses. However, some cases may call for additional compensation in punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages.
You might be wondering if you can seek punitive damages after a truck accident in Utah. Unfortunately, courts determine whether an accident victim receives exemplary damages, so understanding the process behind obtaining these damages might be complex. A Utah truck accident attorney can guide you through the process of obtaining punitive damages.
What Are Punitive Damages in Utah?
Judges award punitive damages when standard financial compensation is insufficient to obtain justice. Utah Code 78B-8-201 states explicitly that courts may award these damages when the defendant’s actions were malicious or intentionally fraudulent; or if their conduct manifests a knowing and reckless disregard toward others.
Courts also use this type of compensation to deter similar behavior in the future. Exemplary damages differ from compensatory damages, which compensate accident victims for their economic and non-economic damages.
What Factors Do Courts Consider When Awarding Punitive Damages?
When determining the appropriate amount of exemplary compensation, courts must consider the following factors:
- Relative wealth of the offender
- Nature of the misconduct
- Circumstances surrounding the conduct
- Accident’s effect on the plaintiff’s life
- Probability of the accident occurring again
- Relationship between the plaintiff and defendant
- Amount of compensatory damages the plaintiff received
While they must consider all of those factors, jurors specifically focus on the first two. Before courts can award punitive damages, jurors may want to understand the defendant’s financial wealth before assessing the amount of punitive damages. For example, a billion-dollar company/defendant who engages in an illegal practice will likely pay more in punitive damages than a million-dollar company/defendant who engaged in similar actions.
Jurors are also especially concerned about the nature of the misconduct. Courts are likely to award a higher amount of exemplary damages when the defendant engaged in conduct that was highly likely to result in catastrophic injury or death.
Actions That May Award Punitive Damages in Utah
As personal injury lawyers in Utah, our role is to make the case that punitive damages apply to your accident. Some truck accident cases for which a court might award punitive damages include:
- Drunk driving
- Willful violations of trucking regulations
- Poor background checks
- Destruction of evidence
- Systems and work-place cultures that foster foreseeable unsafe conduct
Remember, there might be multiple negligent parties involved in a Utah truck accident. A trucker may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but the loading company may have purposefully loaded cargo without securing it. In that situation, both parties may be liable for your damages. Additionally, trucking companies may be at fault if they do not conduct proper background checks or give adequate training.
Do I Keep All of the Punitive Damages Awarded in Truck Accident Cases?
Many accident victims assume they can keep the entire amount of a punitive damage award. However, you have to pay both Utah state and federal tax. The IRS taxes the amount before attorneys deduct their fees. Fees will vary by lawyer and case, but they are typically around 30%.
Furthermore, you must split 50% of punitive damages after the first $50,000 with Utah. For example, say you receive a $1 million award in exemplary damages. Utah would take $475,000 of that. After you pay the state, taxes, and your attorney, you will likely receive less than $200,000
Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys in Utah Will Fight For You
Do not let the actions of a trucking company, cargo loaders, or truck driver take away your future. If you are suffering from a trucking accident in Utah, contact the personal injury attorneys at Feller Wendt. Our Utah injury attorneys will advise you on how to receive compensatory and punitive damages for your losses. To schedule a free consultation, call (801) 499-5060 or complete our contact form.