Guide to Punitive Damages in Missouri

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

Brown & Crouppen

If you have been involved in a car accident in Kansas City or St. Louis, you may be entitled to punitive damages if the person who caused your car accident showed a deliberate or flagrant disregard for your safety. The legal team at Brown & Crouppen will fight for all available damages for your injuries, including punitive damages. We offer a free consultation and are committed to providing the top-tier legal representation you deserve. 

Our full-service personal injury law firm has recovered over $1 billion in case results for our clients, including high-value car accident settlements and verdicts. Call us at (800) 536-4357 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Key takeaways:
  1. Punitive and compensatory damages are different – Punitive damages are awarded to punish and deter egregious, willful, or reckless conduct. Compensatory damages aim to cover your actual losses, including economic and non-economic damages.
  2. Obtaining punitive damages is challenging – Recovering punitive damages in Missouri is difficult due to legal standards and procedural requirements. You must file a motion for leave from the court to seek punitive damages in your lawsuit and then prove your claim for punitive damages with clear and convincing evidence.
  3. Caps on punitive damages – Missouri law generally limits punitive damages to the greater of $500,000 or five times your awarded compensatory damages.
  4. Punitive damages are taxable – They are considered taxable income under federal law.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages, sometimes known as exemplary damages, are somewhat rare in personal injury claims. They are awarded to punish people or entities who cause harm to others due to their egregious, willful, or reckless conduct. They also aim to deter similar behavior in the future through financial penalties. While punitive damages are monetary, their goal is to punish, not compensate. 

Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

Compensatory and punitive damages serve different purposes in a personal injury claim. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident, both may be available. 

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are intended to “make you whole” after an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. These damages are designed to cover losses you have incurred or will incur due to the accident or injury. Though compensatory damages can be economic or non-economic, their goal is to reimburse you for actual harm.

Punitive Damages

Again, unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not concerned with your monetary losses. Instead, they are awarded to punish a liable party for egregious, malicious, or recklessly negligent conduct. In Missouri, you have to prove that there was a deliberate intent to harm or that the defendant acted with reckless disregard for others. The goal is to punish the wrongdoer and deter others through financial penalties for such behavior. 

Are Punitive Damages Difficult to Get?

Receiving punitive damages in Missouri can be challenging. This is due to the legal standards and procedural requirements that must be met. You may encounter three obstacles when trying to recover punitive damages:

  1. You cannot claim punitive damages in your initial lawsuit – You need to file a lawsuit and then file a motion requesting leave from the court to seek punitive damages. The defendant in your case may oppose the motion and present evidence demonstrating that they did not intentionally harm you without just cause or act with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for your safety. This is the standard for punitive damages in Missouri. A court will only grant leave to seek punitive damages if it believes the defendant’s conduct could reasonably meet this standard. 
  2. The burden of proof for punitive damages in Missouri is clear and convincing evidenceClear and convincing evidence must show that it is highly and substantially more likely that the standard is met than not. This burden is higher than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard required for compensatory damages, which simply means more likely than not. 
  3. Punitive damages in Missouri are awarded in bifurcated trials – The punitive damages statute provides as follows: “If during the first stage of a bifurcated trial the jury determines that a defendant is liable for punitive damages, that jury shall determine, in a second stage of trial, the amount of punitive damages to be awarded against [the] defendant.  Evidence of [the] defendant’s net worth shall be admissible during the second stage of such trial.”

Is There a Cap on Punitive Damages in Missouri?

Yes, Missouri limits the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in most cases, including personal injury lawsuits. The punitive damages a victim in Missouri can be awarded are generally limited to the greater of $500,000 or five times the net amount of your compensatory damages. 

For example, if you are a victim of a car accident and are awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages, the maximum punitive damages you may receive would be $1,000,000 (five times $200,000) since this is greater than $500,000. However, there are exceptions. Our team can determine the potential value of punitive damages in your case.

What Are Compensatory Damages in Missouri?

Compensatory damages in Missouri reimburse you for losses due to another’s negligence or wrongdoing. These damages are awarded to “make you whole” by compensating for an accident’s economic and non-economic effects. While monetary compensation may not alleviate all the burdens of your accident, compensatory damages help you get back on your feet. They include:

Economic Damages

  • Medical expenses – Costs associated with hospital stays, doctor visits, medication, and any future medical care resulting from your injury.
  • Lost wages – Compensation for lost income due to time away from work, including past and future earnings. This also includes diminished earning capacity if you cannot return to work and earn the same amount as before your accident. 
  • Property damage – Costs to repair or replace your property damaged due to the accident.
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses – Costs incurred directly from the injury, such as transportation fees and mileage to medical appointments.

Non-Economic Damages

  • Pain and suffering – Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress you experienced due to the injury.
  • Emotional distress – Compensation for anxiety, depression, and other psychological effects of your injury.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life – Compensation for the loss of enjoyment in day-to-day activities.
  • Loss of consortium – Damages awarded to your spouse or family members for the loss of companionship and support.

Our experienced attorneys will help you recover compensatory damages, including lost wages and medical expenses. To do so, we will file insurance claims and a lawsuit on your behalf against the parties responsible for your damages.

Are Punitive Damages Taxed?

Punitive damages are classified as taxable income under federal law, even if they are received in a settlement for personal injuries. This differs from compensatory damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering, which are generally not taxable under federal law. Missouri state income taxes will also apply to punitive damages.

Contact Our St. Louis & Kansas City Car Accident Lawyers

Do not wait to take legal action. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in St. Louis or Kansas City, the experienced legal team will provide the representation you need to seek compensatory and punitive damages. Whether you are dealing with medical bills, lost wages, or the emotional trauma of an accident, we are committed to fighting for your rights. 

There are no upfront costs or legal fees, and we only get paid if you win. Call us at (800) 536-4357 or contact us online for a free consultation.



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