In personal injury, auto accident, and medical malpractice law, the term punitive damages refers to a court-imposed penalty designed to punish the defendant for especially egregious conduct. Punitive damages are completely separate from financial compensation a plaintiff may receive for medical bills, missed wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages were designed to discourage both the current defendant and any other potential parties from engaging in the damaging conduct in the future. While some states have no cap on punitive damages, other states limit medical malpractice awards to a certain amount.
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