In civil claims, when a jury finds in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff is generally awarded damages to compensate for the injuries or damages incurred. Compensatory damages are often awarded to compensate the plaintiff for medical expenses, lost wages, mental distress, and other losses.
Punitive damages can also be awarded to plaintiffs in certain cases. In contrast to compensatory damages that are meant to compensate the plaintiff, punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for bad behavior and to deter others from engaging in such behavior.
Illinois law permits punitive damages awards if the defendant’s behavior demonstrated “an evil motive” or a “reckless indifference to the rights of others.” In Illinois, punitive damages are awarded for three reasons: to deter the defendant from engaging in such behavior, to deter others from engaging in similar behavior, and to punish the defendant. In state law claims, punitive damages can be as much as three times the economic damages award. In other states and jurisdictions, the amount of allowable punitive damages varies. In any case, a punitive damages award can greatly increase the compensation a plaintiff receives, when it is available.