Accident victims who successfully prove liability, or legal fault, in a New Mexico truck accident case may be awarded several types of damages. Compensatory damages are a common type of damages, which includes lost wages, costs of medical care, and emotional pain and suffering. Compensatory damages serve the purpose of placing the accident victim in the position they would be had the accident not occurred.
Another type of damages available to some truck accident victims is punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the defendant(s) for their conduct and to deter others from engaging in similar practices. While punitive damages awards are often large in size, it can be challenging for accident victims to obtain them in a personal injury case.
In a recent case before a California appellate court, the court analyzed what is required to justify an award of punitive damages against the employer of a negligent truck driver. This case is relevant to New Mexico lawsuits because, like California, New Mexico law requires that to award punitive damages, the defendant’s conduct be egregious. Among other things, this means that the conduct must be willful, wanton, malicious, reckless, or negligent and in bad faith. Courts apply different factors to determine whether punitive damages are appropriate. In most cases, the analysis will focus on the type of harm suffered and the level of recklessness the defendant exhibited to assess whether punitive damages should be awarded.