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Robert E. Craven & Associates Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney

Are Punitive Damages Available In Rhode Island Personal Injury Cases?


While personal injury cases are not intended to punish the negligent party or wrongdoer for their conduct, the victim of wrongdoing may be entitled to punitive damages. However, punitive damages are not available in all personal injury cases in Rhode Island.

The main purpose of personal injury cases is to ensure that the plaintiff (the injured victim) obtains compensatory damages for the harm and losses they have suffered.

However, when the defendant’s conduct is too outrageous and egregious, the court may award punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant for their conduct and deter them and others from similar wrongdoing.

If you believe that you are entitled to punitive damages, contact a Rhode Island personal injury attorney to help you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

When Are Punitive Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases?

Under Rhode Island General Law § 28-5-29.1, a court may award punitive damages when the defendant’s conduct:

  1. is motivated by malice;
  2. is motivated by ill will; or
  3. involves reckless indifference to the protected rights of the victim.

In other words, punitive damages may be available in your Rhode Island personal injury case when the defendant showed intentional misconduct, gross negligence, or acted with recklessness.

Thus, when the defendant did not intend to cause harm, and you got injured due to their ordinary negligence, you would most likely not be entitled to punitive damages. However, you may still be able to recover compensatory damages.

Rhode Island courts look at the recklessness and the immorality of the defendant’s conduct to determine if an award of punitive damages is appropriate. An example of reckless conduct may be the decision to drive a motor vehicle while impaired in a drunk driving accident.

You should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your particular case and determine if you can ask for punitive damages.

How Much Money Can I Receive in Punitive Damages?

Currently, there is no monetary limitation on punitive damages in Rhode Island. However, as a rule of thumb, the punitive damages award cannot be larger than 10 times more than the compensatory damages (economic and non-economic damages).

Rhode Island courts have discretion in awarding punitive damages, so the appropriate award of compensatory and punitive damages will depend on the circumstances of your case and the experience and skills of your attorney.

You Need a Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney

It is advisable to seek the legal counsel of a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney to help you maximize your recoverable damages. A Rhode Island personal injury attorney can:

  • determine if punitive damages are available in your unique situation;
  • estimate the appropriate damages award in your case;
  • collect the necessary evidence to prove that the defendant’s conduct justifies punitive damages; and
  • build a strong case to ensure that you get the compensation to which you are entitled.

Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys at Robert E. Craven & Associates to discuss punitive damages in your particular case. Call 401-453-2700 for a case evaluation.

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