Litigation Lawyers in Delaware
The civil litigation system in Delaware, New Jersey is designed to provide compensation for persons who are injured because of the unlawful conduct of others. It is not much concerned with punishing or deterring wrongdoers.
This basic principle is subject to an significant exception, however. There are cases where a judge in Delaware, New Jersey will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff a sum of money which is not calculated based on actual harm the plaintiff has suffered. These are called "punitive damages" and serve the purpose of punishing and deterring wrongdoing.
Punitive Damages in Delaware, New Jersey are not awarded easily, because the civil justice system generally disfavors giving plaintiffs financial windfalls not directly related to compensating them for their injuries. They are usually only awarded when the conduct of the defendant is morally reprehensible, and far worse than simple carelessness.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Delaware, New Jersey
Mostly personal injury cases in Delaware, New Jersey involve injuries that the defendant did not intend to cause, but was still at fault in causing them (through negligence, for instance). In Delaware, New Jersey, this is not enough to justify the award of punitive damages.
Punitive Damages in Delaware, New Jersey are only awarded in cases where the conduct of the plaintiff was intentional and highly immoral, or extremely reckless. In Delaware, New Jersey, torts such as fraud, gross negligence, and theft are sufficient to award punitive damages. Courts consider numerous factors when deciding whether or not punitive damages are warranted. Courts will look at the nature of the act, as well as the defendant's intent in performing the act. This will be weighed, on a sliding scale, against the actual harm that the defendant's conduct caused to the plaintiff.
You should be cognizant of the fact that there are some pretty severe limits on punitive damages in Delaware, New Jersey. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that there are constitutional limits on punitive damage awards. Punitive damages can't be too disproportionate to the actual damages that the plaintiff has suffered. Appeals courts have found that excessive punitive damage awards violate the defendant's right to due process, by depriving them of large amounts of property.
Generally, in Delaware, New Jersey, punitive damage awards that exceed the actual damages (those awarded to directly compensate the plaintiff) by a factor of 10. This is not an absolute rule, nonetheless, and is applied on a case-by-case basis. Courts in New Jersey have found much smaller awards to be invalid, and upheld much larger awards.
How Can a Delaware, New Jersey Attorney Help?
The law of Delaware, New Jersey doesn't lay out many strict conditions which are necessary before punitive damages can be authorized. Instead, it largely leaves it to the discretion of the courts. So, there are numerous situations where they might be awarded.
If you live in Delaware, New Jersey and are involved in a case that you believe carries the possibility of a punitive damage award, you may be entitled to a large amount of funds from the person or company that injured you. To know for sure, you should speak with a civil litigation attorney in Delaware, New Jersey.