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punitive damages, Chicago personal injury attorneysPunitive damages, which are awarded to plaintiffs when a defendant has acted willfully, maliciously, or fraudulently negligent, are intended to deter similar future acts. Tort reformers and the media often attack this form of compensation, however, claiming it is frivolously and excessively awarded without cause. Yet an investigation of the evidence suggests quite the contrary.

Punitive Damages Rarely Awarded

Although tort reform supporters, lawmakers, and corporations would like the public to believe that punitive damages are increasing in both award amount and frequency, the very opposite is true. In fact, when examining the data from various sources, including the U.S. Department of Justice, it would appear that punitive damages have actually decreased in frequency and inflation-adjustment amount. Moreover, the actual percentage of cases for which punitive damages are awarded has, for the most part, remained stable.

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tort reforms, Chicago product recall attorneysThere was a time when corporations cared about their products and the effect they had on the general population. It was a time when companies worked hard to prevent the distribution of defective products; when the system failed and a defect did make its way to the public, the issue was quickly rectified. In some ways, it is an indication of just how much values have changed over the years, but it is an even stronger indication of how the decisions made by lawmakers, legislators, and courts have diminished the sense of accountability for large corporations.

Punitive Damages and Corporate Accountability

Punitive damages and corporate accountability go hand-in-hand because, when a corporation has the fear of being hit with damages above and beyond just the typical damages, they are less likely to gamble with the lives of their consumers. But punitive damages have become nearly non-existent, with some states placing caps on the amounts and others doing away with them altogether. As a result, corporations have begun to weigh the cost of continuing to produce defective products against the cost of correcting the problem or pulling the product altogether.

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