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The county seat of Bedford County is Shelbyville. Shelbyville is the hub of the Tennessee Walking Horse, a horse that is known for a four-beat flashy gait. The town is known as the “Pencil City” because wood pencils used to be produced here, and it is also at the center of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. If you are seriously hurt in Shelbyville or anywhere else in Bedford County, you should consider consulting a personal injury lawyer to determine whether you can recover compensation. Experienced attorney Matt Hardin represents those who have been hurt due to personal injury, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car wrecks, wrongful death, and motorcycle accidents.
Punitive damages can be awarded where a defendant is found to have acted intentionally, fraudulently, maliciously, or recklessly. Each of these mindsets has its own definitions. For example, someone acts intentionally if that person has a conscious objective to act in a particular way or cause a particular result. Someone acts fraudulently if he or she misrepresents facts or produces a false impression to mislead someone else, who then is injured by relying on the falsity. A person who is motivated by ill will, spite, or hatred acts maliciously. Somebody who acts recklessly is aware of a substantial risk and deviates from the standard of care a reasonable person would show anyway.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. This is a heightened standard under which there are no substantial doubts about the defendant’s actions. The two goals of punitive damages are to punish a wrongdoer and to deter others from following in the wrongdoer’s footsteps. Punitive damages are not regularly awarded in car accident cases, but they can be appropriate under truly egregious circumstances.
Here is an example of what punitive damages might be awarded. Suppose that you are driving home on a single-lane bridge. A pizza delivery driver who is driving in the opposite direction to deliver a pizza and has been drinking on the job decides to pass a big rig by driving into the wrong lane towards you at 65 mph. The driver gets closer and closer, so you have to swerve to avoid a head-on collision and go flying off the side of the bridge. In that case, your attorney would sue not only the pizza delivery driver but also his employer under a theory of vicarious liability. This is a valid strategy because the driver was acting in the scope and course of employment when he acted recklessly. Then, it turns out that the employer knew that the driver had prior DUIs, had caused serious accidents before, and employed him anyway. In that case, you might be justified in requesting punitive damages.
When punitive damages are sought, a defendant can ask for the trial to be bifurcated, or split into two phases. In the first phase, the judge or jury will determine both liability and the amount of compensatory damages. In the second phase, the judge or jury will determine whether there is liability for punitive damages. In this separate proceeding, the judge or jury will consider factors such as the defendant’s financial condition, the nature and reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions, whether the defendant tried to conceal the damages, whether the defendant profited from the misconduct, any prior similar acts by the defendant, the impact of those actions, and the relationship between the defendant and victim, among other things. These factors will shape the amount of punitive damages, if any, awarded.
Some accidents result in truly serious injuries. If you or a loved one was hurt in a serious accident in Bedford County, you should consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Matt Hardin can evaluate whether you have a valid claim and, if you do, pursue damages from the person or entity whose careless behavior injured you. Schedule a free consultation with him by calling (615) 200-1111 or by sending a message through our online form. We serve clients in Shelbyville and other Bedford County towns.