What Are Punitive Damages?

I’m David Salazar. Today, we’re going to talk about a very, very important thing that I’ve been asked about lots of times. People often ask me, “Punitive damages, what are they? I want to punish this company for what they did to me. I want to make sure that they pay. I want to make sure they’re held accountable for all types of reasons.”


Two types of damages

I have some news for you. Punitive damages are under the umbrella of damages. There are two types of damages. There are compensatory damages and punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to do exactly what the term says. They are meant to punish somebody.

I want to make sure, though, that you understand that not all companies reach the level of punitive damages. And there are some very important reasons why. Below is the definition of punitive damages according to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.

Note that this is the definition for Texas only. It is not for the entire country. Each state has different definitions of punitive damages. But for the most part, they are all pretty much in line with this one.


Punitive damages versus compensatory damages

A jury assesses punitive damages to punish a defendant for willfully malicious acts that go beyond mere negligence. Compensatory damages are assessed to make the plaintiff whole. Punitive damages are assessed to punish and deter behavior in the future. So they go beyond the level of making somebody whole.

They actually try to deter a company or punish them. Punitive damages are awarded very rarely and in only about 3% of the cases. So punitive damages deter corporations from engaging in actions they know will hurt people, such as placing defective products on the market.

I want to make sure you understand that because it’s very different from compensatory damages. You have to establish that it was a willfully malicious act. We call it gross negligence. It reaches an entirely other level where it’s a culpable mental state, that you have to willfully do something malicious, and deceive the public on purpose.


If you have questions

If you have any questions about it, I’d love to break it down for you. Again, this is only in Texas. Every state has some kind of punitive damage element, though it varies slightly in each state. But for the most part, they are the same. My name is David Salazar with the Safety Guardians group on Facebook and on YouTube. Please subscribe to our channel.