When a 45-year-old biker was hit and injured by a tractor-trailer on a highway, he didn’t take his injuries lying down. Refusing to balk at a fractured hand, rib, and leg, lower back hematoma, a lacerated liver, traumatic brain injury and a separated shoulder, Pernanza Hill bravely endured multiple surgeries and the loss of his income as a septic tank laborer. And then he fought back, filing a negligence lawsuit against the tractor-trailer’s owner.
Hill claimed that the truck’s driver had driven too fast, losing control of the vehicle and negligently causing Hill’s injuries. Though the defendant, USA Truck, Inc., denied any fault, plaintiff was able to convince a jury that he had not darted into traffic as claimed with the help of several eyewitnesses. The jury, taking into consideration the nearly $170,000 of medical costs, future lost earnings of $250,000 plus, and the painful emotional trauma of the plaintiff’s bike injury, decided in favor of Hill. They awarded $3 million, including $1 million in punitive damages.
What are punitive damages and how do they benefit a claimant in a personal injury case? The answer is simple: punitive damages are moneys awarded to a plaintiff as a punishment to a negligent perpetrator in a personal injury. In this case, the driver behaved recklessly and caused extensive physical and emotional damage to Hill. His payment? Full responsibility for Hill’s injury, and $1 million in punishment to teach USA Truck, Inc. – and other potentially negligent companies – an expensive lesson.
Can punitive damages undo an injury? Of course not. But they can deter reckless and irresponsible parties from injuring again – and can serve as an expensive example for others. The attorney, expert witnesses, eyewitnesses and plaintiff deserve congratulations for their lengthy – and ultimately victorious – courtroom battle.