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Does Kentucky Have A Cap On Punitive Damages In A Personal Injury Claim?

January 16, 2024

In various states across the country, including here in Kentucky, individuals could be awarded punitive damages if they have a successful personal injury claim against another party. Punitive damages are awarded to plaintiffs (the individual(s) harmed due to the negligence of others) only under certain circumstances, particularly when the actions of the defendant (the alleged negligent party) are believed to have been particularly egregious in the case.

In Kentucky, there is no limit to how much plaintiffs can receive in punitive damages if these damages are awarded by the court. However, it is important to clarify what punitive damages actually are and explore whether or not you will need an attorney to seek these kinds of damages from another party.

Understanding Punitive Damages in Kentucky

Under Kentucky law, punitive damages are used sparingly. The statute says that a plaintiff can only recover punitive damages by approving, with clear and convincing evidence, that the actions of the negligent party showed a degree of oppression, fraud, or malice.

  • Oppression. This means that the defendant engaged in behaviors that were cruel against the injury victim, leading to their suffering. Oppression does not necessarily have to mean that the defendant intentionally inflicted harm.
  • Fraud. This refers to the defendant willfully concealing information or actively deceiving a victim in order to inflict harm on them.
  • Malice. This means that the defendant intentionally inflicted harm on the victim or clearly disregarded their rates and safety, resulting in an injury.

The statute goes on to say that punitive damages cannot be awarded against an employer for an act of an employee or agent unless the employer authorized or should have anticipated the conduct. Punitive damages can also not be awarded for breach of contract claims.

Calculating Punitive Damages in Kentucky

Punitive damages aren’t awarded to compensate a victim but rather to punish the defendant. Courts do not calculate punitive damages based on how much harm was done to the individual injury victims, at least not necessarily. Courts will determine punitive damages to award by taking into consideration a variety of factors:

  • Total assets of the defendant
  • How much awareness the defendant had about the ability of their actions to cause harm
  • The emotional and physical injuries of the victim
  • The actions of the defendant when the incident occurred
  • The actions of the defendant after they realized the plaintiff was harmed
  • Whether or not the defendant profited from their actions
  • The overall egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct

Some states place limitations on the overall monetary value of punitive damages that can be awarded, but Kentucky does not place any caps on these damages.

Will a Lawyer Be Needed for Your Claim?

If you or somebody you care about has been harmed due to the negligent actions of another individual or entity in Kentucky, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney today. When you work with a Lexington personal injury lawyer, you will have an advocate ready to walk you through every aspect of the process. This includes understanding what damages may be available for your particular claim. This includes compensatory damages as well as the possibility of punitive damages.