What are “punitive damages”?

Sometimes when there is an injury or loss caused by especially reckless conduct (like drunk driving) or fraud, our system provides that compensatory damages are not enough to deter the wrongdoer from doing the same thing and hurting others. In rare cases, the responsible party may have to pay “punitive damages”. Punitive damages are meant to penalize bad behavior and let the rest of society know that reckless, dangerous conduct will not be sanctioned.

Punitive damages are not routine, and there are many limits built into the law to reserve punitive damages to punish very bad practices and conduct.