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What Are Enhanced Compensatory Damages in a New Hampshire Personal Injury Case?

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New Hampshire law allows for a category of damages called enhanced compensatory damages. The seminal case of Vratsenes v. N.H. Auto Inc., 112 N.H. 71 (1972) explained the trilogy of bad behavior for which enhanced damage may be awarded. When an act is “wanton, malicious, or oppressive,” the compensatory damages awarded may reflect the aggravating circumstances. These enhanced damages, sometimes called liberal compensatory damages, are awarded only in exceptional cases. The mere fact that an intentional tort is involved is not sufficient; there must be “ill will, hatred, hostility, or evil motive” on the part of the defendant.

These three (3) distinct avenues to enhanced compensatory damages are explained in New Hampshire’s Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.14, which specifically instructs the jury that” …you may award [enhanced] damages only if you find that the defendant’s conduct was more probably than not wanton, malicious, or oppressive.”

To understand conduct subject to enhanced compensatory damages; “wanton” means reckless indifference or disregard of consequences; “Malicious” means ill-will, hatred, hostility, or bad motive; and “Oppressive” means abuse of power.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has declared the purpose of an award of damages is to compensate the plaintiff for their loss, not to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are not allowed in New Hampshire unless authorized by statute. No damages are awarded as a punishment to the defendant or as a warning and example to deter the defendant and others from committing like offenses in the future.

In the event you are injured because of the fault of someone else, you are entitled to recover damages in an amount that is “full, fair and adequate.” Because no two accidents are the same and no person’s injuries are the same, a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer will need to evaluate the circumstances to determine whether or not enhanced compensatory damages may be recoverable.

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