In order for an injured individual to be entitled to punitive damages after a premises liability incident, he or she must prove that the defendant acted with a “conscious disregard” for safety. If it can be shown that a property owner knew about a hazardous condition and deliberately failed to do anything about it, an injured plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages.
There is a three part test to identify the elements needed to bring negligent acts to the status of “conscious disregard”:
- Actual/constructive knowledge of the hazard
- Actual/constructive knowledge that an injury is likely as a result of that hazard
- Deliberate failure to act to take reasonable action to eliminate that hazard
Demonstrating that a property owner was aware of a danger and deliberately did nothing to address it is crucial. For example, did a property owner already know that a security gate was not working properly and did nothing about it? Did a restaurant manager know a machine was leaking and causing water to accumulate where customers could easily slip and fall?
Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, it is crucial that you can prove a property owner was aware of a dangerous condition and consciously decided not to take reasonable action. If you can prove that this is the case, you may have a claim for punitive damages, on top of the compensatory damages you may already be entitled to.