NRS 42.005 is Nevada’s law regarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are a type of compensation available in some types of personal injury cases like negligence cases. Nevada law 42.005 creates specific rules for when a victim can receive punitive damages. Here’s what you need to know about punitive damages in Nevada from our Las Vegas injury attorneys.

Punitive Damages Definition Nevada

Punitive damages in Nevada are extra damages that a victim can receive when they are a victim in certain types of civil cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for extraordinary, bad behavior. In other words, if the defendant acts in a very reckless or even intentional way that causes harm, the victim may receive more than just their usual compensatory damages. Instead, the victim can receive extra amounts as a form of punishment to the defendant for their conduct. These additional damages are called punitive damages.

Judge Awarding Punitive Damages

Nevada Revised Statutes 42.005 – NRS 42.005

Nevada Revised Statutes 42.005 is the Nevada “Exemplary and Punitive Damages” law.[1] The law says that exemplary and punitive damages are available in non-contract cases where a victim has suffered damages. To receive punitive damages, the victim must show that the defendant acted maliciously, fraudulently, or with oppression to injure the victim. Nevada Revised Statutes 42.005 says that punitive damages exist to create an example to others and to punish very bad actors.

Punitive Damages in Nevada Accident Claims

Punitive damages, as outlined in Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 42, are damages that exist separate from and in addition to compensatory damages.[2] Compensatory damages are the damages that are in direct response to the losses suffered by the defendant. They include both economic damages and non-economic damages. Pain and suffering is a part of compensatory damages.

On top of compensatory damages, punitive damages are a separate category of damages that may be available in some cases. Essentially, punitive damages are a way to punish a defendant when they cause an accident through egregious conduct. Punitive damages are also a way to make an example out of the defendant to deter similar behavior from others.

Does My Case Qualify for Punitive Damages?

For your case to qualify for punitive damages, the defendant’s conduct must be especially bad compared to a typical negligence case. The actions of the defendant are what matters when it comes to deciding punitive damages. It doesn’t matter how much the victims got hurt.

Instead, if the defendant acts with oppression, fraud, or malice, you may receive punitive damages regardless of the extent of your injuries. Although punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and not to compensate the victim, it’s still the victim who receives the payment.

What Is the Burden to Prove Punitive Damages in Nevada?

The burden to prove punitive damages in Nevada is clear and convincing evidence.[3] That means that the victim must show that it’s obviously true that the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. The clear and convincing evidence standard is a higher standard than what applies to determine fault in general for a negligence case.

In other words, it’s not as easy to win punitive damages as it is to win compensatory damages in a negligence case. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue punitive damages. By carefully building the facts in your case, you can show that punitive damages are necessary and appropriate.

Are There Punitive Damages Caps in Nevada?

Yes, there are punitive damages caps for some types of cases in Nevada. Nevada Revised Statutes 42.005 imposes caps on punitive damages in certain Nevada tort cases. The limits depend on the amount of compensatory damages:

  • If the damages are $100,000 or more – The victim can receive three times their compensatory damages in punitive damages
  • If the damages are less than $100,000 – The victim can receive up to $300,000 in punitive damages
  • Cases where there are no limits to punitive damages – defective products, bad faith insurance, discriminatory housing practices, harm caused by toxic/hazardous substances, defamation

If your case falls into a category where punitive damages caps don’t apply, you can receive any amount of punitive damages that the jury sees fit to award.

Who Determines Punitive Damages in Nevada?

The jury determines punitive damages in Nevada. First, the jury decides if the defendant is responsible for the victim’s damages. They also decide whether to award punitive damages. If the jury says that the defendant is liable for punitive damages, there’s a separate proceeding to determine the amount to award. When the jury makes their decision, they don’t get to know about the damages caps in place. They simply decide the amount of the punitive damages, and the court reduces the amount to the cap, if applicable.

Does the Jury Look at the Defendant’s Finances When They Decide Punitive Damages?

Yes, the jury can consider the defendant’s finances when they decide how much to award in punitive damages. They don’t get to know the defendant’s financial situation when they determine whether to award punitive damages. However, the defendant’s finances are relevant and admissible for determining the amount to award.

Pleading Punitive Damages in Nevada

If you hope to receive punitive damages in your Nevada civil claim, you need to be mindful of the issue of punitive damages from your very first legal pleadings. You need to make sure that you allege conduct that qualifies for punitive damages under Nevada law. It’s not entirely clear how specific the allegations need to be to satisfy legal requirements. An experienced Nevada civil negligence attorney can help ensure that you prepare legally sufficient documents.

Motion to Strike Punitive Damages Nevada

A motion to strike punitive damages in Nevada is a request by the defense to vacate or reduce an award of punitive damages.[4] Even if the jury awards punitive damages, the court can override the award. Based on the United States Supreme Court case State Farm Mutual Automobile v. Campbell, the court can reduce an award of punitive damages if they feel the award is not proportional to the award of compensatory damages.

Can a Judge Reduce Punitive Damages?

Yes, a judge can reduce punitive damages. United States law prohibits excessive and arbitrary punishments. Punitive damages are a form of civil punishment. Because of due process laws in the United States that prohibit excessive punishment, a court can reduce or remove a jury’s award of punitive damages.

The court looks at how egregious the conduct was, how big the punitive damages are compared to compensatory damages, and the penalties imposed in comparable cases. The U.S. Supreme Court in the State Farm Mutual Automobile v. Campbell case said that there are few situations where a punitive damages award should exceed a single-digit ratio to compensatory damages.[5]

Nevada Revised Statutes 42.010 – Punitive Damages in Drunk Driving Case

Nevada law 42.010 allows punitive damages in drunk driving cases. NRS 42.010 says that the jury may award punitive damages in a drunk driving case.[6] The purpose of punitive damages in drunk driving damages is to punish the defendant for injuring someone by willfully consuming alcohol before driving.

Las Vegas Injury Accident Lawyers

Do you have a question about punitive damages? Are you wondering if you have a claim for punitive damages? Call our Las Vegas attorneys today.

Sources

[1] NRS 42.005

[2] NRS Chapter 42

[3] Clear and Convincing Evidence. (n.d.). Retrieved 25 November 2019 from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/clear_and_convincing_evidence.

[4] Motion To Strike. (n.d.). Retrieved 25 November 2019 from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/motion_to_strike.

[5] State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408

[6] NRS 42.010

Adam S. Kutner

Adam S. Kutner Personal Injury Lawyer

With more than 28 years of experience fighting for victims of personal injury in the Las Vegas valley, Attorney Adam S. Kutner knows his way around the Nevada court system and how to get clients their settlement promptly and trouble-free.