Are New Jersey Judges Allowed to Change a Personal Injury Jury Award?

When an NJ personal injury jury award appears to be way to high or way to low, the plaintiff or defendant can ask the NJ court to either raise the jury verdict or lower the jury verdict to make it fair. In New Jersey, when a personal injury case jury award is too low, a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney may ask the court for an “additur”. This is a request to the court to add money on to the jury verdict to make it fair.

When an NJ personal injury case jury verdict is too high, the defense attorney may ask the court for a “remittitur”. This is a request to the judge to lower an NJ personal injury case verdict that appears to be excessive.

Because a jury is given wide latitude in determining pain and suffering damages, the standard for granting a additur or remittitur is necessarily high. NJ case law states that a judge may not substitute his or her judgment for that of the jury merely because he or she would have reached the opposite conclusion.

An NJ personal injury case court judge should not order a new trial or remit a jury’s damages award unless it is so clearly disproportionate to the injury and the plaintiff’s pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that it may be said to shock the conscience. Other NJ personal injury cases say that the jury award must be manifestly unjust in order to change the amount of the jury verdict.

An NJ appeals court will give much deference to the trial court’s ruling because the trial court actually observed the evidence and the witnesses in person. A trial court gets a better feel of the case.

Do you think the additur and remittitur is good law? I believe it is. Sometimes an NJ jury will rule that a defendant was 100% at fault for the personal injuries and the jury believes that there are true and real personal injuries from the accident, but the jury will award zero or tiny bit of money because they did not like the plaintiff. For example, it would be unfair if a plaintiff did not to receive full and fair compensation for his or her injuries because the jury did not admire the plaintiff’s personality or the way he or she dressed.

As a plaintiff’s only PA and NJ personal injury lawyer, I would believe that an additur is more important in achieving fair and reasonable compensation under the NJ personal injury law. If a jury believes that a defendant’s conduct is really egregious and/or that the plaintiff’s life is now forever changed, a jury or 6 or 8 people in NJ should be able to agree to award a plaintiff a large amount if they feel it is justified.