Litigation Lawyers in Montclair
The civil litigation system in Montclair, 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 Montclair, 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 Montclair, 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 Montclair, New Jersey
A majority of personal injury litigation actions in Montclair, New Jersey do not involve the possibility of punitive damages, because they usually involve injuries where the defendant is at fault for the harm caused, but did not intend to do any harm. In Montclair, New Jersey, accidental harm may be enough to award the plaintiff compensatory damages, but it is not enough for punitive damages.
In Montclair, New Jersey, punitive damages are only awarded in extreme circumstances. Civil wrongs such as fraud, conversion (theft), battery, and other intentional, depraved acts are sufficient to award punitive damages. In deciding whether or not to award punitive damages, and how much money to award, courts in Montclair, New Jersey will consider many different factors. Usually, they employ a sliding scale, weighing the nature of the conduct and the actual harm that the conduct caused. The more immoral the conduct, and/or the more harm caused, the more likely a court is to award punitive damages.
It's crucial to know that punitive damages in Montclair, New Jersey are subject to limits. The Supreme Court of the United States has held, more than once, that punitive damages can't be grossly disproportionate to the actual harm sustained by the plaintiff. Grossly excessive punitive damage awards are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has held, because they amount to the government acquiring property from the defendant without due process of law.
Punitive damages in Montclair, New Jersey usually cannot surpass 10 times the amount of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff. Nonetheless, this is just a guideline, and not a strict rule. Courts in New Jersey have found larger punitive damage awards to be perfectly valid, and smaller ones to be invalid. This will be strongly dependent on the facts of each case.
How Can a Montclair, New Jersey Attorney Help?
In Montclair, New Jersey, judges and juries have a good deal of leeway in deciding if they want to grant punitive damages, so there are a nearly-unlimited number of circumstances that can lead to a punitive damage award.
If you are involved in a case in Montclair, New Jersey where punitive damages are a possibility, a very large amount of money could be at stake, whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. You should not delay to speak with a civil litigation attorney in Montclair, New Jersey