When a personal injury case goes to trial, a jury verdict will often return a certain amount of money awarded to the plaintiff. In general, both parties in the case, the plaintiff and the defendant, have the ability to appeal the decision that the jury makes if they disagree with it. There are times, however, when the jury returns an award that is excessively low or excessively high. In these cases, additur and remittitur could be used, in lieu of an appeal, to increase or decrease the total damages awarded. Here, we want to discuss these two terms and how they are used in personal injury cases.
What is Additur?
Additur refers to the power that the trial court has to assess damages that are returned by a jury. Additur also refers to the ability of the trial court to increase the total amount of the damages that have been awarded if they are deemed to be inadequate.
However, an increase in the total amount of damages awarded to a plaintiff will only be made as a condition of a denial of a new trial. Often, after a jury returns a low reward amount, a plaintiff and their attorney may consider a new trial. Additur is a way to increase the plaintiff’s award while avoiding the time and expense of a new trial. Additur cannot occur without the consent of the defendant. The consent of the plaintiff in these cases is not necessary for additur to occur.
Additur is not particularly common, but the damages returned by a jury could be set aside if the amount returned is “shocking to the judicial conscious,” which typically means that the amount was inadequate to the point that it constituted a miscarriage of justice. Additur may also be used if it appears that the jury was influenced by corruption, prejudice, passion, or if the jury made a mistake.
What is Remittitur?
Remittitur is the process by which an excessively high jury verdict will be reduced. As opposed to additur, remittitur occurs if the total amount of damages awarded to a plaintiff by a jury are grossly excessive. In these cases, a judge could order the plaintiff to “remit” part of the award amount to a level that is supported by the evidence presented in the case. The goal of remittitur is to ensure that the plaintiff in the case receives adequate compensation without the necessity of a new trial or an appeal (when a jury returns a grossly excessive award amount, it is very likely that the defendant will request a new trial or appeal the decision). When remittitur is used, there is often little double about the liability of the defendant. The issue lies squarely with the amount of compensation awarded by the jury.
Working with Your Attorney
If you have reached a point in your personal injury trial where you are concerned about an excessively low or excessively high jury verdict, your Chicago personal injury attorney will likely have explained all the possible outcomes to you. If additur or remittitur are an option, you should work with your attorney to understand the best route moving forward for your case.