Punitive Damages in North Carolina Personal Injury Cases

Charlotte Injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: “How long will it take for my case to be resolved?”


Injuries can be devastating to every aspect of your life. You might be physically suffering an injury, trying to heal, juggling doctors appointments, or even just surviving the financial burden an injury can have. Outside of the medical costs associated with injuries, there are other financial aspects that people might not consider. If you are injured to the extent that you are unable to work, you have lost wages. In fact, you might even permanently be unable to perform job functions, impacting the earning potential you have for the rest of your life. In North Carolina, when an individual is injured through the negligence or wrongful act of another, that person can seek damages through a personal injury suit. There are many different factors that go into calculating damages.


increasing-gold-coins-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Personal-Injury-Lawyer-Law-Firm-300x225Personal injury damages are broken into two different categories – compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are those that are meant to “compensate” a victim for the injury. This is money for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages sustained to put them in the same position that they were prior to the injury. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to be a punishment to the wrongdoer. There are many more regulations on punitive damages than compensatory damages. Punitive damages are only awarded in limited circumstances in personal injury suits.


A North Carolina statute states that the purpose of punitive damages is “to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts and to deter the defendant and others from committing similar wrongful acts.” Punitive damages are only considered when the court has already determined that there was enough evidence presented to award compensatory damages. After proving that compensatory damages are appropriate, it must be proven that one or more of three factors is present. Punitive damages can only be awarded in cases involving:


  • Fraud;
  • Malice; or
  • Willful and wanton conduct.


Each of the above three factors have a high standard to meet in order to prove their existence in the case. One of the more common factors to be proven is willful and wanton conduct. This factor often comes up in driving under the influence cases. Many cases involving drinking and driving have concluded with punitive damages being awarded to the victim.


Additional Limitations


In addition to requiring the presence of fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct, there are other limitations placed on punitive damages if they are awarded. Punitive damages “shall not exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.” This cap is relevant to all cases, except cases in which the defendant was the cause of a car accident because of impaired driving.


The dedicated personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to get you the compensation that you deserve for your injuries. We are aggressive and will fight for your right to be compensated for injuries caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help you through every step of the personal injury case. Now taking cases throughout the Charlotte region with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and the new location under renovation in Monroe. Contact us, for a free consultation, call us at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.







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