What are punitive damages?

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Punitive damages are a type of monetary damages that may be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit based upon particular conduct of a defendant. They are damages that may be awarded in addition to routine damages for pain and suffering referred to as compensatory damages. Punitive damages are damages on an increased scale that are awarded to a plaintiff over and above the amount that will strictly compensate them for their loss.

To warrant an award of punitive damages, a defendant’s conduct must amount to intentional wrongdoing in the sense of an “evil-minded act”, or an act accompanied by a wanton and willful disregard of the rights of another. The key to the recovery of punitive damages is the intentional aspect of the wrongful act. Punitive damages are not only intended to provide solace to plaintiff, but also to make an example of a defendant and deter similar activity in the future.

The New Jersey Punitive Damages Act, limits punitive damages to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or $350,000, whichever is greater, except in certain cases involving public policy and social concerns. Under the Act, a plaintiff must specifically request punitive damages in the Complaint. The defendant may then request a bifurcated trial first to determine liability for compensatory damages and second, if necessary, to determine whether punitive damages should be awarded.

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If you have been injured because of the wrongful act of a doctor, nurse or other medical professional, we can help. For a free initial consultation with an injury lawyer, contact us by e-mail or call our offices, in New Brunswick at 732-247-3600 or in Somerville at 908-448-2560.

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To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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