Litigation Lawyers in Woodcliff Lake
The civil litigation system in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey is designed to provide compensation for individuals who are injured because of the unlawful conduct of others. It is not much concerned with punishing or deterring wrongdoers.
This general principle is subject to an important exception, however. There are cases where a judge in Woodcliff Lake, 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 Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey are not awarded lightly, 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 Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
Mostly personal injury cases in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey do not involve punitive damages, because the defendant did not intend to cause harm, or act with some other form of malice. Instead, most of these cases involve situations where the defendant acted carelessly, but did not actually intend to cause harm. This is enough to award compensatory damages, but it is far from sufficient to award punitive damages in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
In Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, punitive damages are not awarded in most cases. They are typically only awarded when the defendant's conduct was so reckless or deplorable that punishment of the defendant is warranted. Acts such as battery, fraud, and defamation (in some cases) are usually considered sufficient in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey to justify punitive damages. In deciding whether to award punitive damages, and how much to award, the two most important factors the court looks at will be the level of immorality of the act, as well as the actual harm that the plaintiff suffered as a result of the defendant's conduct.
There are limits on punitive damages in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The Supreme Court has held that punitive damage awards which are grossly disproportionate to the immorality of the conduct, and the harm that it caused, are an unconstitutional deprivation of property without due process of law.
Generally, in Woodcliff Lake, 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, however, 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 Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey Attorney Help?
The law of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey doesn't lay out many strict conditions which are required before punitive damages can be granted. Instead, it largely leaves it to the discretion of the courts. So, there are many situations where they might be awarded.
If you are involved in a case in Woodcliff Lake, 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 hesitate to speak with a civil litigation attorney in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey