Can You Get Punitive Damages After a Truck Accident in Tennessee?

Any truck accident has the potential to cause devastating injuries and extensive property damage, and anyone injured in a truck accident needs to know the types of compensation available. Every state has laws dictating which types of damages a plaintiff in a civil claim can receive and the conditions for receiving them. One of the most common types of compensation that causes confusion is punitive damages. As the name suggests, a jury awards punitive damages to punish a defendant for behavior that goes beyond the typical standard of negligence.

Tennessee Laws for Punitive Damages

Tennessee Code 29-39-104 dictates the state’s conditions for awarding punitive damages. According to this law, a plaintiff must offer evidence that the defendant’s behavior was intentional, malicious, grossly reckless, or criminally fraudulent. A jury may also award punitive damages if the defendant in the case attempted to hide, destroy, or manipulate material evidence in the case. They may also award punitive damages for a defendant who caused injuries and damages under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Punitive damages should deter the defendant from engaging in similar behavior in the future and may serve as a warning to others who might engage in such behavior. Tennessee, like many other states, also limits the amount a plaintiff can receive in punitive damages. In Tennessee, punitive damages may not exceed the greater of $500,000 or twice the amount of the plaintiff’s claimed compensatory damages.

A jury must also consider the financial state of a defendant when awarding punitive damages. Wealthier defendants generally pay much more in punitive damages than those with limited financial assets.

Damages Available in Truck Accident Cases

Punitive damages may be some of the most significant damages a plaintiff receives in a successful truck accident claim if the defendant meets the necessary criteria. The plaintiff’s compensatory damages may influence the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff receives, and these may include:

  • Medical expenses. Vehicle accidents with large trucks often cause severe injuries that may require extensive recovery and long-term rehabilitation. They may also result in permanent disabilities. Victims of truck accidents can secure compensation for all medical expenses resulting from an accident, including hospital bills, emergency transportation costs, prescription fees, surgical fees, and any costs for necessary long-term care.
  • Lost income. A truck accident can easily cause a victim to miss work due to his or her injuries, and the plaintiff can secure compensation for income lost during this time. If a truck accident injury prevents a plaintiff from returning to his or her previous job or working at all in the future, the plaintiff may receive compensation for his or her lost earning capacity and reasonably expected future income.
  • Property damage. A plaintiff in a truck accident lawsuit can secure compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged or destroyed vehicle and expensive personal belongings.
  • Pain and suffering. The justice system allows plaintiffs to receive compensation for the physical pain and emotional trauma they experience because of negligence. Different courts use different systems for calculating pain and suffering damages, which Tennessee limits to $750,000 for injuries and $1 million for catastrophic injuries.

The amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff receives for a truck accident lawsuit will influence how much the plaintiff could receive in punitive damages. For example, under Tennessee law, a plaintiff who receives $100,000 in compensatory damages could receive $200,000 to $500,000 in punitive damages, depending on the severity of the defendant’s actions. If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, an experienced personal injury attorney should be able to provide you with a realistic estimate of the damages available in your claim.