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Does New Jersey award punitive damages?

If you sustain an injury in an accident that a negligent party causes, you may file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. When you file a personal injury claim, you typically file for compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are those designed to compensate you for actual injury and loss you sustained as a result of the defendant’s misconduct. In contrast, punitive damages are those the court awards as a means of punishing the wrongdoer and to deter the wrongdoer from engaging in similar actions in the future. In your pursuit of compensation, you may wonder if New Jersey allows you to recover punitive damages. The answer depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident.

The courts allow punitive damages in exceptional cases

Per the New Jersey Courts, the state does not award punitive damages as a matter of routine. Rather, the courts will only seriously consider punitive damages in exceptional cases in which the defendant acted in an especially outrageous or reckless manner.

If you hope to recover punitive damages, you must file a separate claim for them, and you may only file such a claim if you recovered compensatory damages. To support your claim for punitive damages, you must show, through clear and convincing evidence, that the loss, injury or harm you suffered was the result of the defendant’s acts or omissions. Furthermore, you must show that the defendant’s conduct was malicious in nature, or that he or she acted in a willful and wanton manner.

The law further clarifies what constitutes as “malicious” or “wanton and willful.” Malicious conduct refers to intentional wrongdoing that stems from an evil-minded motivation. Wanton and willful behavior is behavior in which the defendant engaged despite knowing that said behavior was likely to result in the harm of another person.