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Can You Recover Punitive Damages in a New Jersey Personal Injury Lawsuit?

What Are Punitive Damages? Are They Available in a New Jersey Personal Injury Claim? If So, What Must You Show?

Can You Recover Punitive Damages in a New Jersey Personal Injury Lawsuit-ImgMany of the accidents that give rise to personal injury lawsuits are the result of a momentary lapse of judgment or care. A motorist takes his eyes off the road to look at a handheld device or a distraction on the side of the road. A homeowner fails to monitor ice and snow building up on a sidewalk, steps, or stairs.

In other instances, though, the actions of the wrongdoer are far more insidious. A trucking company falsifies its maintenance logs and one of its drivers has a mechanical breakdown, causing a horrific crash. A general contractor knowingly ignores safety requirements on a high-rise construction project, resulting in worker injuries or fatalities.

In all personal injury lawsuits, an injured person may seek compensatory damages to recover for actual losses. In some instances, though, the court may award a different form of compensation, referred to as “punitive damages.” What are punitive damages? Are they available in a personal injury lawsuit in New Jersey? If so, what must a plaintiff (injured person) show to be eligible for punitive damages?

What Are Punitive Damages?

The compensation, or “damages,” available in a personal injury lawsuit are generally categorized as either compensatory damages or punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to “reimburse” or “compensate” an injured person for actual losses, such as lost wages or income, unreimbursed medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are not tied to an actual loss but are intended to serve as a sanction or punishment to the wrongdoer. They are also generally considered to be a deterrant to others who might engage in similar actions.

Are Punitive Damages Available in a New Jersey Personal Injury Claim?

A jury in New Jersey may award punitive damages to a personal injury plaintiff. However, punitive damages are rarely awarded in personal injury claims and generally require that the injured party prove that the defendant (person from whom compensation is sought) engaged in “gross negligence.” To prove gross negligence, an injured person must show that the conduct of the defendant created “an unreasonable risk of harm because of a failure to exercise slight care or diligence.” For example, driving far above the posted speed limit in a particular area may be evidence of gross negligence. The driver may not intentionally drive 60 in a 25 mph zone, but doing so may cause an unreasonable risk of harm that would have been avoided with minimal diligence or care.

Contact the Law Office of Howard D. Popper

At the Law Offices of Howard D. Popper, we can help protect your rights. For a free initial consultation to discuss your options after any type of personal injury, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent-fee basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.

Prior results are no guarantee of a specific outcome in your case. Your results may vary based on your particular facts and circumstances.