When you file a personal injury claim, you are typically doing so to recoup losses for medical bills and lost income, or to get compensation for the mental anguish of what you endured. If the court finds in your favor, you would receive a monetary award for your losses, including any property damage. The types of damages awarded to victims are designed to give justice to you after being wronged. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are designed to prevent others from being hurt or injured in the same way and are typically reserved for cases involving the most reckless and intentionally negligent behavior.
What are examples of cases that may involve punitive damages?
Cases that award punitive damages often involve a company or other large entity. For example, in a product liability case, a car manufacturer may continue to make and sell a car or car part they know to be unsafe or defective. If you can prove they were negligent in their decision to continue to sell the car, they could be ordered to pay punitive damages. In some states or jurisdictions, punitive damages can also be awarded for violating anti-discrimination employment laws.
Individuals can also be ordered to pay punitive damages that injure someone else due to negligent behavior. In an extreme example, OJ Simpson was ordered to pay $25 million dollars in punitive damages in the wrongful death claim brought by the families of his ex-wife and her friend. Other examples could be drunk driving or distracted driving. In both cases, the at-fault driver would have made a willful decision to engage in behavior that could easily harm another person.
Punitive damages are designed to prevent others from being hurt or injured in the same way. Given that the intent and purposes of punitive damages imposed on a company are not designed to compensate the victim, per se, nonetheless they will receive the monetary award. If punitive damages are ordered by a court, they are essentially punishing the defendant, who must pay the amount of money designated and give it to the plaintiff.
Punitive Damage Limits in New Jersey
While some states do not have a limit on how much can be awarded in punitive damages, there is a cap on punitive damages in New Jersey. Punitive damages cannot exceed $350,000 or five times the amount of compensatory damages -- whichever is greater. Compensatory damages are what you typically recover in a personal injury lawsuit -- compensation for medical bills and related services, lost income, future lost income, and pain and suffering.
Proving Punitive Damages
The burden of proving the defendant is liable for punitive damages lies with the plaintiff, or the person filing the lawsuit. When it comes to punitive damages, you would need to show “clear and convincing evidence” of either malice or extreme recklessness. In other words, the burden of proof is closer to that in a criminal case. When seeking compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof is described a "preponderance of evidence," a lower legal standard.
Brandon J. Broderick, Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or even complete disregard for others’ safety and well-being, working with experienced personal injury attorneys can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Why risk being unfairly compensated and not having recourse to fix it? When you hire a personal injury lawyer from our team, you pay nothing upfront. We work on contingent fees that are only collected if we win your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.
Contact Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney, at Law, for a free consultation. With our proven track record of success with personal injury settlements and our commitment to client care, we can turn your setback into a comeback.