Like most other states, Montana has laws under which a victim can seek punitive damages from the person, or business, responsible for her injuries.
As the name implies, punitive damages are designed to punish the person who acted carelessly and caused an injury.
In other words, punitive damages send a message to both the responsible person and the public that certain behavior just will not be tolerated. As a result, they can exceed a victim’s actual losses.
Montana law caps the amount of punitive damages a court may award. In most cases, a court may only award $10 million in punitive damages, over and above a victim’s losses, or up to 3% of the responsible party’s net worth, whichever is less.
Another provision in the law set out special procedures this state’s courts must follow when awarding punitive damages. The important thing for Billings-area residents to remember is that not every case will be grounds for asking for punitive damages.
An injured victim will have to prove that the responsible party was more than just careless.
If the victim cannot prove the responsible party caused an injury on purpose, the victim will at least to have to prove that the responsible party acted without little to no regard for the safety and well-being of others.
To give an example, punitive damages might not be available after someone causes an accident because he missed a stop sign or slipped on a wet road while going the posted speed limit.
On the other hand, in accidents involving drunk driving or drugged driving, a victim has a better chance of recovering punitive damages.