On occasion, a jury in a personal injury case awards a plaintiff punitive damages — more than the costs of the plaintiff’s injuries — to punish the defendant. For example, several years ago, a jury awarded the family of a paralyzed 7-year-old girl $75 million from a beer vending company at Giants Stadium because it over-served a football fan whose drunk driving after the game caused an accident that left the child permanently disabled.
Whether punitive damages should be awarded has been hotly debated within legal circles in New Jersey and across the United States. In part because cases with high punitive awards are well-publicized, people seriously injured in auto accidents often ask if their cases qualify for a large punitive award.
In fact, the requirements of the legal system make it difficult for most plaintiffs to receive such awards. First, the case must meet the following three primary criteria:
A business rarely acts maliciously to cause injury to a consumer. When it does, establishing a case that might warrant an award of punitive damages requires the experience of a qualified New Jersey personal injury attorney. By engaging an attorney as soon as possible after an accident occurs, evidence is more likely to be retrievable, and the likelihood of winning a substantial award is much greater.