You don't get awarded punitive damages just by filing a motion for punitive damages. Punitive damages must be proven as part of the plaintiff's case in chief at trial.
If you complaint does not include facts or a prayer for punitive damages, then you need to make a motion for leave to amend your complaint. In California, the courts are liberal in granting leave to amend a complaint if the plaintiff can demonstrate a meritorious claim.
Code of Civil Procedure section 473 provides:
The court may, in furtherance of justice, and on any terms as may be proper, allow a party to amend any pleading or proceeding by adding or striking out the name of any party, or by correcting a mistake in the name of a party, or a mistake in any other respect. The court may likewise, in its discretion, after notice to the adverse party, allow, upon any terms as may be just, an amendment to any pleading or proceeding in other particulars; and may upon like terms allow an answer to be made after the time limited by this code.
There isn't a specific deadline. Leave to amend at any time is liberally allowed in the interests of justice and in the absence of prejudice to another party, even up to the time of trial. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 473(a)(1) & 576; Magpali v. Farmers Group, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 471, 487.) Denial of leave is rarely justified. (Weil & Brown, Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (The Rutter Group 2011) ¶ 6:639.)
Under California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1324, a separate declaration must accompany the motion to amend a pleading specifying the following: (1) the effect of the amendment; (2) why the amendment is necessary and proper; (3) when the facts giving rise to the amended allegations were discovered; and (4) the reasons why the request for amendment was not made earlier. The motion must also include a copy of the proposed amendment, and identify by page, paragraph, and line number any additions to and deletions from the prior pleading. (CRC 3.1324(a).)
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
A few words to add to Mr. Chen's comprehensive answer- punitive damages are very hard to recover in a negligence case. Being granted leave to plead punitives is a long way from success. I suspect you are pro se, which is going to make it even harder. Unless this is on a test.
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