Government authorities strive to lower the frequency with which drink drivers cause an automobile accident. One tactic used by the government involves hitting drunk drivers with a special type of fine. That fine is imposed on guilty drivers when they must appear in court.
What is the special fine imposed by the court?
It is called punitive damages. It punishes the defendant for actions that the government finds especially objectionable. The government hopes that the imposition of such a fine will help to keep the defendant from repeating the objectionable behavior. Not all plaintiffs welcome the prospect of having the size of their award increased by the addition of punitive damages. Defendants, of course, do not want to become responsible for paying punitive damages.
The source of funds to cover punitive damages
If a defendant owes punitive damages, that requested money cannot come from the defendant’s insurance company. It might come from the relinquishing of property on the behalf of the defendant. Alternately, it might come from the garnishment of some part of the defendant’s wages.
How large are punitive damages?
That is largely left up to the plaintiff. Some plaintiffs do not want a large fine placed on the defendant, because the government can tax the money received as a punitive damage award. Usually, funds awarded by the court cannot be taxed.
Sometimes the Injury Lawyer in Kingston hired by the plaintiff seeks to obtain more funds from other sources, instead of asking the judge to hit the defendant with punitive damages. For instance, that particular lawyer might request more compensation for the anticipated future treatments. Money obtained for that reason cannot be taxed, even if it substitutes for a special fine.
The judge cannot object to that approach. The court cannot force the plaintiff to accept a chance to request the special fine on the defendant. The court seeks to be fair, and the plaintiff might not feel that the added money from the defendant would be fair. After all, it would be taxed.
If the attorney gets more money for the client in the form of compensation, then the lawyer would not have much reason for going after the punitive damages. Plaintiffs prefer to get money that cannot be taxed, even if the court would be happy to fine someone that now bears the label of drunk driver. The jury does not know anything about the punitive damages, until it has agreed on the size of the plaintiff’s award. That fact reflects the extent to which the court wants the plaintiff to receive a fair compensation. The court does not want the compensation lowered just because the defendant will also be paying a fine (punitive damages).