When filing a personal injury claim in Denver, Colorado, you may come across a lot of legal terms that you have never heard of before. Among these legal words may be additur and remittitur. These terms refer to post-trial procedural rules that allow judges to modify a jury verdict. The purpose of granting judges this powerful tool is to avoid granting new trials in response to legal challenges to a jury’s decision. Colorado courts and their procedural rules attempt to balance efficiency and fairness in the process. An experienced Denver personal injury attorney can help you understand these law terms and how they may apply to your accident case.
What is additur?
If a jury verdict does not satisfy one of the parties, that party may file a motion to the trial judge asking to increase (additur) or decrease (remittitur) the amount awarded by the jury in its verdict. Either plaintiff or defendant (or both) can file a motion for additur or remittitur. Generally the plaintiff asks the judge to increase the jury award by filing a motion for additur. A judge can grant a motion for additur as a condition for denying a motion for new trial. Additur is permitted under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, like most states, but federal courts do not permit these motions. That is an important consideration when filing lawsuits against parties in other states.
If your attorney files a motion for additur, the defendant must consent to the request and agree to increase damages beyond the jury verdict. It is effectively a post-trial settlement of your personal injury claims instead of asking the judge to grant a new trial and go through the same expensive trial process again. Defendants may agree to additur when:
- It would be cheaper to increase the verdict award than hold a second trial
- Defense counsel believes a second trial would result in an even larger award for the plaintiff
- The defendant does not want to endure a second trial and accepts an additur to resolve the case and satisfy a judgment
When can a Colorado judge grant additur?
A judge may only grant a motion for additur if your attorney successfully proves the trial jury made an error in reaching the amount in the verdict. Examples of legal errors permitting additur include:
- Misinterpreting the jury instructions provided by the judge
- Delivering a verdict tainted with discrimination or prejudice
- A miscarriage of justice was committed by the jury
- The verdict was tainted with corruption within the court
Additur is not a valid motion at law if it is based purely upon your or your attorney’s belief that the jury’s verdict did not award as much money as it should have. If you received a fair trial and the jury decided your case is worth less than you think it is, unfortunately you cannot ask the judge to increase the award based on a disagreement with the jury’s decision. You and your personal injury attorney must prove a legal basis for additur. You must prove an injustice in the trial process prevented you from receiving a fair award or the jury’s decision is inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial.
What is remittitur?
Remittitur is the opposite of additur. If a jury awards an amount to the plaintiff that is grossly excessive to the damages presented by the plaintiff’s evidence, the judge can reduce the verdict award. A defendant may file a motion for remittitur when it believes the evidence of your economic and non-economic losses and the verdict are unreasonably far apart.
A judge may grant a motion for remittitur when the defendant proves an error at trial or miscarriage of justice warrants reducing the verdict. A defendant may ask the judge to reduce the jury award instead of granting a new trial when remittitur would more efficiently result in a fair outcome instead of granting a new trial. A plaintiff does not have to consent to an order for remittitur. If the court grants a remittitur as the last act of the trial court, the plaintiff may appeal the order.
A defendant generally will not prevail on a motion for remittitur simply because a jury awards punitive damages. In Colorado, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to your economic and non-economic damages to punish the defendant for maliciousness or gross negligence. Defendants seeking remittitur on punitive damages must prove the amount of punitive damages is excessive due to a material mistake by the jury or prejudice.
Why Colorado allows additur and remittitur?
It may seem unfair to allow a judge to go behind a jury and change the amount awarded by the jury. After all, you have a constitutional right under the federal and Colorado constitutions to a trial by jury.
When there is an injustice or material mistake by the jury, that harms your right to have a fair and impartial jury decide the facts of your case. If a jury or the judicial process errs against you, then you have the right to ask for a new trial so you can have your opportunity to receive a fair and impartial trial. When a judge grants a new trial, it often significantly increases the costs for all parties involved. It can also harm your case by giving the other side knowledge of your strategy and a chance to change the outcome entirely.
Remittitur and additur allow the judge an opportunity to adjust the existing verdict to what a fair and impartial trial should have or likely would have produced. That prevents the parties from investing significant money in a new trial, waiting potentially months for a new trial date and the harsh outcome that a jury may decide for the other side.
What to do if your personal injury case involves a motion for additur or remittitur
Your case might not actually be over once a jury in Denver awards you a judgment. After a trial is over, there is a chance that a request for additur or remittitur will be made. If you find that one of these motions applies to your personal injury case, seek legal advice. These intricate legal procedures could have an impact on how much money you ultimately receive in compensation.
After receiving a jury decision in your initial personal injury lawsuit, you can secure the protection of your rights during additur or remittitur by hiring an attorney to represent you. A Denver personal injury attorney can assist you in comprehending these motions and how they might affect your finances, regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or defendant.