The role punitive damages play in personal injury cases in Georgia
In some personal injury cases, a defendant may have behaved egregiously and created aggravating circumstances. According to Georgia law, when a defendant’s actions or behavior reflect “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences,” a judge may award punitive damages.
Are punitive damages the same as “pain and suffering?”
Punitive damages are in a separate category from other types of damages you may receive in personal injury cases. Someone who files a personal injury claim may receive damages that fall under 3 categories: economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages.
- Economic damages cover tangible expenses like medical bills, lost wages and other financial losses that occur as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
- Non-economic damages include emotional distress, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. These damages are more difficult to quantify because the related injuries are typically less tangible in nature.
- Punitive damages exist to assign financial consequences to defendants who behave in a manner that is shocking or especially abhorrent. Courts use punitive damages to send a message to defendants that society will not tolerate behavior like theirs.
Does your case qualify for punitive damages?
Georgia law permits judges to award punitive damages for the sole purpose of punishing, penalizing or deterring a defendant for the negligent act that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. Terms like “egregious” are often difficult for everyday people to interpret and apply to their own cases. Therefore, it’s always best to contact a personal injury attorney in your area to receive a case evaluation if you would like to pursue punitive damages.
Based on state law and professional knowledge, an experienced attorney can determine which types of compensation you may be eligible to receive. They can also help you file a claim in addition to advising you and representing you throughout the legal process.
When do judges award punitive damages in Georgia?
Judges award punitive damages less often than they award other types of compensation. Plaintiffs can receive large punitive awards in cases in which medical companies or equipment manufacturers disregard information that suggests their product will likely cause harm to unsuspecting consumers or other members of the general public.
In another example, a judge may require an intoxicated driver to pay punitive damages to an injured plaintiff as driving while drunk or under the influence may be an aggravating factor in a personal injury case.
Here are a few other examples of personal injury cases in which judges may award punitive damages:
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Nursing home abuse
- Sex with a minor
- Sexual assault
- Felony assault
For plaintiffs in Georgia, punitive damages may also be awarded if your attorney establishes the defendant:
- Acted with intentional malice
- Committed 1 or more fraudulent acts
- Displayed purposeful misconduct
- Displayed extreme carelessness and reckless disregard for the impact of their actions
How much can you receive in punitive damages?
While some states limit the maximum amount judges may award in punitive damages, there is no such cap on product liability and personal liability cases in Georgia. Other cases may also have no cap on punitive damages if the defendant:
- Acted intentionally
- Failed to act
- Acted under the influence of alcohol
- Acted under the influence of prescription drugs not taken as prescribed
- Acted under the influence of intentionally-consumed toxic vapors
When a Georgia judge awards punitive damages, 75 percent of the award typically goes to the state treasury. Therefore, plaintiffs receive a comparatively small percentage of the total amount awarded.
However, plaintiffs may receive supplementary compensation in the form of other damages combined with the punitive award. An experienced lawyer will fight for every type of compensation you deserve, including punitive damages.
Getting punitive damages in Georgia accident cases
If someone else’s negligence has caused you to sustain a personal injury, punitive damages may be available. The first step toward winning punitive damages and other compensation in court is to file a claim.
Contact our Georgia personal injury lawyers at the law offices of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson to receive a free case evaluation and determine whether you may have a valid claim. We will gather all the material facts of your case and help you file your claim in court.
In addition to representing you and fighting for your rights during settlement negotiations, we will represent you in court and work diligently to establish your entitlement to punitive damages. Contact us today to learn more about how we help plaintiffs get the compensation they deserve.