Punitive Damages in Oklahoma
If you’re like most people, you have likely heard of punitive damages, but don’t really know what they are. In Oklahoma, punitive damages can be award to a Plaintiff when the actions of a Defendant are reckless, extreme, or indifferent to the Plaintiff and/or the public at large. Under the law, a jury can punish a defendant based upon several factors, paraphrased here:
1) How serious of a the threat to the public the Defendant’s actions were;
2) How profitable the misconduct was to the Defendant;
3) How long the misconduct took place and any efforts the Defendant took to hide it;
4) How aware the Defendant was of the wrong; and,
5) The conduct and behavior of the Defendant after discovery of the misconduct.
Punitive damages are important as they act as a deterrent to individuals or corporations who could profit from only paying compensatory damages - those actual damages that can be measured. Further, to an injured Plaintiff, punitive damages are often the vindication they need to be able to lay the issue to rest.
As punitive damages stem from conduct that is more than mere negligence, most insurance companies do not agree to defend their insureds from a charge of punitive damages. Therefore, a Defendant may have to hire separate counsel and may be held personally liable for an award by a jury.
If you have any questions regarding punitive damages in a civil case in Oklahoma, give our office a call at 918-947-9747 to speak with an attorney.