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Are punitive damages available in TN car wreck cases?

The purpose of punitive damages today is not to compensate the plaintiff but rather, to reprimand the offender and to discourage the offender and others from committing comparable wrongs in the future. The Tennessee courts are in the habit of awarding punitive damages in select car wreck cases, but not all. If you sustained serious injuries in a Tennessee automobile collision, you may wish for the courts to punish the defendant by forcing him or her to pay you punitory damages. Whether or not they will do so depends on a number of factors.

According to CaseText, in the evaluation of the 1992 case Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co., the Tennessee courts reexamined and modified the manner in which they would award punitive damages in the future. While it did not modify to whom a jury may award punitive damages, it did change what plaintiffs must prove to receive exemplary damages.

Per the outcome of Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co., a jury may award punitive damages in personal injury or civil cases if it finds a defendant acted in any of the following manners: 1) maliciously, 2) fraudulently, 3) intentionally, or 4) recklessly. The case summary further goes on to define each of those terms.

A person acts maliciously when ill will, personal spite or hatred motivate him or her to act. The courts may determine that a person acted fraudulently if the person purposefully produced a false impression or misinterpreted an existing material fact to mislead another for his or her own benefit if another person sustains injuries as a result of his or her reliance on the misrepresentation.

When a person acts intentionally, he or she does so with a desire or conscious objective to engage in the conduct or to cause the result his or her actions caused. A person acts recklessly when he or she is aware of the risk associated with his or her behavior but engages in said behavior regardless of said risk. To determine if the defendant in your case acted in a reckless manner, the courts would consider what any other ordinary person would have done under the same circumstances.

The content shared here is not meant to serve as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. 

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