Reckless Driving and Punitive Damages

At any point, you could be severely injured in a car accident that was not your fault. You could be following all the rules of the road and practicing safe driving. But because of the carelessness or recklessness of another motorist, you could end up with life-changing injuries. If your injuries were the result of the reckless actions of another driver, you could receive punitive damages on top of your economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are an extra category of damages that can be applied in particularly egregious personal injury cases.

Personal Injury Compensable Damages

Broken bone injury

Recoverable damages in personal injury cases fall into three main categories. There are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. All personal injury cases will involve economic damages. Many will involve non-economic damages as well. And some will be eligible for punitive damages. There are no limits on economic and non-economic damages, which can be advantageous to the injured party. Not only is there a chance for a large payout to be awarded if the case goes to trial, but the threat of that happening can help entice the defendant to settle before a lengthy and costly trial occurs.

Economic Damages

Economic damages can cover medical expenses, wage loss, reduction in earning capacity, property damage, and domestic help costs. Medical expenses are self-explanatory. Wage loss and reduced earning capacity damages are meant to compensate the injured party for the work they missed while recovering and any long-term effect their injuries will have on their future earning. If your property, such as your car, was also damaged in the event that caused your injury, you may be able to recover compensation. Additionally, if you now require in-home help, such as a caretaker for yourself or your dependents, those costs may be compensated for as well.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages resulting from a personal injury can include physical pain, permanent disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and emotional suffering. Loss of enjoyment of life refers to when your permanent injuries prevent you from partaking in activities you once enjoyed, such as hiking if you suffered a leg or spinal injury. Loss of consortium is a special type of non-economic damage that is brought by the spouse of the injured party. It refers to the breakdown in your marital relationship, such as lack of intimacy, as a result of your injuries.

Punitive Damages in Pennsylvania

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Punitive damages are different from economic and non-economic damages in a few ways. First, they can only be included in personal injury cases in which the defendant is being accused of reckless actions that lead to your injuries. Reckless actions are those that go beyond carelessness due to the intent of the perpetrator. If someone knows that their actions are likely to cause serious harm and they choose to perform those actions without regard for the safety of others, it is recklessness.

Second, punitive damages are not meant to make the injured party whole as economic and non-economic damages are. Instead, punitive damages serve to punish the defendant for their reckless behavior and actions. And third, these damages are limited to twice the amount of the economic damages awarded in the case. For example, if you were awarded $300,000 in economic damages after you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, the punitive damages could be up to $600,000.

Reckless Driving

dram shop lawyer

Now that you are aware of how punitive damages differ from economic and non-economic damages, it is time to learn how they may be applied to a car accident personal injury lawsuit. Reckless driving can come in a variety of forms. But one thing they all have in common is the disregard for both the rules of the road and the safety of other motorists. The two most common forms of reckless driving include excessive speeding and running red lights or stop signs.

Consider an accident in which the victim was rear-ended by a speeding driver. Without any other context, it is likely that the actions of the speeding driver would be considered careless. The victim would be able to sue for economic and non-economic damages, but punitive damages would not be added to the suit. But, if it came to light that the driver had been speeding for a considerable amount of time leading up to the accident, was swerving between lanes to get around traffic, and then attempted to flee the scene, it is much more likely that their actions would be considered reckless.


There are three types of damages you can be compensated for after a personal injury. Economic damages cover your finances, including medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity. Non-economic damage compensation is for your physical pain, emotional suffering, and other hard-to-quantify damages. And punitive damages are additional fines levied against the defendant to punish them for reckless behavior. In the case of a car accident, reckless driving, which is ignoring the rules of the road and driving in a dangerous manner while knowing the potential consequences, can lead to punitive damages.

Donaghue & Labrum Trial Lawyers

Have you been injured due to the reckless actions of another motorist? Contact the lawyers of Donaghue & Labrum today. Our experienced attorneys will help you maximize the compensation you receive from your claim — especially if reckless actions were involved.