Punitive damages represent additional compensation awarded in a personal injury case in Canada in which the party that caused injuries to another engaged in particularly egregious conduct in causing the accident in the first instance. Punitive damages actually are rarely awarded in Canadian personal injury cases. Indeed, an injured person really needs the assistance of a personal injury lawyer in order to successfully pursue a claim for punitive damages in Canada.
Civil Juries Versus Trials to the Court
Films and television presented throughout North America sometimes include tales that involve court trials. More often than not, these cases feature judicial proceedings in the United States. As a result, these entertainments have resulted in some misperceptions about punitive damages, jury trials, and trials to the court in civil cases.
In the United States, as is oftentimes depicted in movies and television shows, civil lawsuits, like personal injury cases, are tried before a jury. On the other hand, in Canada, the majority of civil lawsuits are tried directly to the court or to the judge. There is no jury.
In part because of a personal injury lawsuit being tried only before a judge, an award of punitive damages in Canada is less likely. In addition, even when this type of compensation is awarded, it is done so in an amount that is considerably less than what is found south of the border.
The Purpose of Punitive Damages in Canada
A personal injury lawyer will explain to a client that the purpose of punitive damages is to punish and deter. These damages are designed to add a more significant consequence to particularly egregious conduct in a particular case. Moreover, punitive damages are designed to send a message beyond a specific case to deter others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. There is at least some additional compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a tort case, above and beyond merely compensatory or economic damages.
Medical Negligence and Punitive Damages
A personal injury lawyer is also likely to explain that if punitive damages are going to be awarded in a Canadian case, it is more likely than not that it will be a case involving medical negligence or medical malpractice. Even then, the level of misfeasance in a medical negligence or medical malpractice case is going to have to be significant in order to result in a successful claim for punitive damages in a trial.
During an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer, a potential client has the opportunity to discuss possible compensation in a case, among other issues. As a general rule, there is not charge for an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.