In both Kansas and Missouri, a court may award a plaintiff damages to compensate him or her for injuries, property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and other losses that may result from another's negligence. In addition, a court may award damages to punish bad behavior and to deter others from engaging in the same conduct.
This distinction is what differentiates compensatory damages from punitive damages in both Kansas and Missouri.
If you or a loved one was injured due to the negligent or reckless conduct of another, you may be wondering what kind of damages you may recover. Every injury case is different, and some types of damages may apply in some cases but not others. If you have questions about your particular injury claim, call our Kansas City personal injury lawyer for a free, no obligation consultation at 816-203-0143.
Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages
Compensatory damages are sometimes referred to as "actual damages." This is they are intended to compensate the plaintiff for his or her actual losses. To be entitled to compensatory damages in a personal injury case, a plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered some kind of loss due to the negligent acts or omissions of a defendant.
For instance, a plaintiff may be injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver. If the plaintiff incurred losses in the form of property damage, medical bills or lost wages, he or she may demand reimbursement for those losses from the defendant’s insurance company. With each type of compensatory damage, a plaintiff will need to be able to prove the amount of the loss and how it was caused by the defendant's negligence or other wrongful conduct.
In contrast, punitive damages are not awarded to compensate a plaintiff for losses he or she suffered. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their wrongful conduct and deter others from similar behavior.
To be entitled to punitive damages, there is a higher level of proof for a plaintiff. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant's conduct was not merely negligent but rather reckless or egregious. In addition, a plaintiff often must prove this with “clear and convincing” evidence.
In the example of a car accident, the plaintiff may seek to recover punitive damages against the defendant who was intoxicated or who exhibited road rage or reckless driving. The purpose would be to punish such egregious behavior and deter others from similar misconduct.
Punitive Damages in Missouri & Kansas
In Missouri, punitive damages require a higher level of proof known as "clear and convincing evidence." A jury in Missouri cannot award punitive damages unless they find that the defendant showed a complete indifference or conscious disregard for the safety and well-being of others. If a judge finds that punitive damages are warranted, the judge may allow the jury to determine the amount of punitive damages. Missouri law allows the jury to consider a defendant's net worth in deciding how much to award in terms of punitive damages.
In Kansas, punitive damages are governed by K.S.A. Section 60-3703. For a plaintiff in Kansas to assert a claim for punitive damages, he or she must first apply to the trial court and request permission to recover punitive damages. If the court permits the plaintiff to proceed, the plaintiff may amend his or her petition and request the recovery of punitive damages. To recover punitive damages in Kansas, a plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with willful conduct, wanton conduct, fraud or malice.
Contact Our Kansas City Personal Injury Lawyer
Still have questions about what kind of damages may apply to your case? Contact us today. Our Kansas City personal injury lawyer today for a no-obligation, free consultation by calling 816-203-0143. We would be happy to speak with you about your case and offer guidance as to what steps you should consider to protect your rights and maximize your recovery.