What Are the Punitive Damages for Negligence in Illinois?

Published on Apr 30, 2024 at 6:42 pm in Personal Injury.

When you’re involved in an accident, the person who caused it should be held responsible for the injuries and damage they’ve caused. In a personal injury case such as a car accident where a driver’s negligent actions caused your vehicle collision and resulting injuries, you could pursue legal action against the at-fault party.

Aside from the standard compensation seen in most civil cases, there may be an opportunity or valid reason to also pursue punitive damages from the individual who caused you harm.

Read on to find out what punitive damages are for negligence in the state of Illinois and how your Prince Law Firm attorney can help you fight for them.

Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

In a typical personal injury or civil case, the plaintiff (the victim) can seek compensatory damages from the defendant (the at-fault party).

Those damages are economic and non-economic and usually include medical costs, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and more. In most cases, these types of compensation are good enough to cover the losses the plaintiff has suffered, but on rare occasions, punitive damages come into play.

Punitive damages are specifically designed to punish the at-fault party for their actions. By awarding punitive damages, the court sends a message that those actions will not be tolerated and that cases involving such actions will be taken seriously.

Most civil cases where negligence occurred will not consider awarding punitive damages.

When Can Punitive Damages Be Applied?

For punitive damages to be awarded, a defendant must have acted with extreme recklessness that caused unnecessary danger to or with intent to harm others.

Punitive damages can be awarded in most personal injury claims, such as car accidents, defective products, premises liability, or others where negligence played a major role in causing harm.

According to Illinois Statute 735 ILCS 5/2-1115.05, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where bodily injury, physical damage to property based on negligence, or product liability occurred only if actual damages are awarded.

This means that if you make a case against a driver whose reckless driving caused an accident that resulted in severe injuries and property damage, and you are awarded compensatory damages, then you could pursue punitive damages. But, if you are not awarded any compensatory damages in your case, then you are not legally allowed to pursue punitive damages against that individual who caused you harm.

Proving That Punitive Damages Apply to Your Case

To pursue punitive damages, it must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct was with evil motive or with a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and with a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others.

So, going back to the car accident scenario, if the driver who hit you had been exhibiting road rage or was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and their “outrageous indifference” caused the car accident that harmed you, then you and your lawyer could attempt to recover punitive damages.

Your lawyer could present some or all of the following to prove that the defendant’s actions were egregious and intolerable:

  • The defendant’s intent
  • The defendant’s actions
  • The physical or emotional harm the defendant’s actions caused
  • The way the defendant engaged in your case (i.e., actions or behavior in court)
  • Whether the defendant attempted to hide or lie about their actions
  • How vulnerable you are as a victim

Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, your lawyer may need to present expert testimony, witness statements, or other evidence to prove that punitive damages should be awarded.

How Much Could a Punitive Award Be?

According to the previously mentioned Illinois statute, the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded for a claim in any civil action may not exceed three times the amount awarded for economic (financial) damages.

For example, if you are awarded $50,000 for financial losses due to your car accident, your award for punitive damages cannot be more than $150,000. It’s important to understand that punitive damages are generally not awarded in cases that settle out of court, but a jury usually decides whether or not to award punitive damages in a case that goes to trial.

A jury will examine all of the details presented in your case and will determine whether punitive damages are appropriate and how much you should be compensated for the defendant’s egregious actions.

As you can see, civil cases such as car accidents or premises liability can become complex, which is why it is so important to the success of your case to have a qualified attorney from Prince Law Firm on your side. It’s especially vital to have an experienced lawyer to assist if you believe you have a strong case for punitive damages.



Want to speak to an attorney? Unsure if you have a case? Fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as quickly as possible.