Punitive Damages Are Possible After Some Catastrophic Iowa Car Accidents 

Iowa is an at-fault insurance state, which means that car accident survivors typically have the right to file a lawsuit against the person or party who caused their injuries. In most cases, people hurt in Iowa car crashes seek two types of compensatory damages: economic losses and non-economic losses. 

However, if another driver acted in an incredibly reckless way, victims may also be able to seek punitive damages. 

The Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop has spent years protecting the rights of Iowa car crash victims. Read more to learn how you could claim punitive damages, or send us a message online to schedule your free consultation as soon as possible. 

An Overview of Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are very different from compensatory damages and are not awarded in most personal injury lawsuits. Unlike compensatory damages—which are meant to compensate for accident-related losses—punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant’s wrongdoing. 

Making a Case for Punitive Damages After a Serious Accident

You can only receive punitive damages if you meet the requirements for exemplary damages set forth in Iowa law. According to  Iowa Code § 668A.1, you must provide clear and compelling evidence of each of the following conditions: 

  • The defendant exhibited a “willful and wanton disregard” for your safety. 
  • The defendant’s misconduct was directed at you or another person or party involved in your accident. 

If both criteria are met, you can receive the full amount of punitive damages. However, if only the first criterion is met, you may receive up to 25% of punitive damages.

Other Types of Compensation in Iowa Car Accident Claims 

Punitive damages are awarded in addition to other types of compensation. These typically include: 

Economic Damages 

Economic damages are compensation for measurable financial losses caused by an accident. In general, these damages are awarded to ensure that an accident victim does not have to pay out-of-pocket for costs related to medical treatment or taking time away from work.

The most common types of economic damages include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Current and outstanding hospital bills 
  • Costs of anticipated or long-term care 
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Paid co-pays and deductibles
  • Lost income from work
  • Exhausted vacation days and paid time off (PTO) 
  • Diminished earning potential 

Calculating certain kinds of economic damages, like the value of your outstanding hospital bills, is sometimes as simple as collecting receipts and adding sums. In contrast, assessing compensation for less certain losses—like how much money you might need for long-term treatment—can involve intense negotiations with the insurance company. 

Iowa has no cap on economic damages in most car accident-related claims. 

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages help ease less-tangible forms of loss that cannot typically be calculated by cross-checking receipts or asking an expert medical economist for an estimate. 

Instead, they often include compensation for: 

  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Disfigurement

Since catastrophic car accidents can leave survivors traumatized, anxious, and unable to do many of the things they used to enjoy doing, non-economic damages usually constitute a large part of their financial recovery. But, because feelings of pain and anguish don’t have a measurable monetary value, they have to be calculated by using special legal formulas and taking a very close look at cases similar to your own. 

Fighting for a Fair Recovery After an Iowa Car Accident

You don’t have to accept excuses in place of a fair and reasonable recovery. The Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop has spent decades helping accident victims fight for their rights. We could help you make a compelling, evidence-based claim for compensatory and—potentially—punitive damages by: 

  • Investigating the causes of your accident to determine which parties should be named as defendants in your lawsuit. 
  • Collecting and assessing your financial losses, calculating your non-economic damages, and determining whether you could be entitled to punitive damages. 
  • Negotiating with the insurance agency to try and reach a fast, effective resolution. 
  • Preparing to take your case to trial. 
Matthew (Matt) Lathrop
Experienced injury lawyer serving accident victims in Nebraska and Omaha. Expert in focus group trial prep.
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