In some cases, careless people cause injury, and it doesn’t seem fair that they get away with their negligence.
Luckily in certain circumstances, you can recover punitive damages in Georgia. For instance, a defendant who drives drunk or flees the scene of an accident may have to pay Georgia punitive damages.
Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1) says punitive damages may be awarded “solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant” for the negligent act.
If you’re wondering how to recover Georgia punitive damages, you should know a few things about negligence and damages:
- What are the different types of personal injury damages?
- When does a judge or jury award punitive damages?
- How much can you receive in punitive damages?
What are the different types of personal injury damages?
When you suffer a personal injury due to someone’s negligence, you can sue to recover damages. Depending on your injury, you may recover several types of damages:
- Economic damages. This category of compensatory damages reimburses you for medical bills and lost wages. These damages from financial losses leave little room for speculation. You submit medical bills and employment records so the court can accurately determine economic damages.
- Non-economic damages. This category of damages seems less clear. It contains damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. A jury interprets the value of these damages and awards a wide range of reimbursement. Defendants worry about paying non-economic damages, such as:
- Pain and suffering. Damages address the pain you endured from your accident.
- Emotional distress. Damages address the emotional distress you experienced as a result of your physical injury. This category includes anxiety, insomnia, and more.
- Loss of consortium. Damages attempt to compensate for your loss of relationship enjoyment due to your accident.
- Punitive damages. Though seldom awarded, punitive damages Georgia can cost defendants a lot of money. A judge or jury awards punitive damages when a defendant acted with a significant degree of negligence deemed “gross negligence”. Most personal injury cases do not award punitive damages.
A judge or jury may award all three types of damages at the same time. An experienced personal injury lawyer will request Georgia punitive damages when the defendant exhibits terrible behavior.
When does a judge or jury award punitive damages?
A judge or jury awards punitive damages in Georgia to deter the defendant from engaging in egregiously negligent behavior. The punitive damages award aims to send a message that society will not tolerate such behavior.
A plaintiff must ask for punitive damages before a judge will consider this penalty. To prove that Georgia punitive damages apply, an attorney must show that the defendant displayed one of the following:
- Acted with intentional malice
- Committed fraud
- Acted in purposeful misconduct
- Exhibited extreme careless and reckless disregard for the action’s impact
A defendant need only commit one of these intentional or reckless acts for punitive damages to apply. Ultimately, the judge decides if the defendant’s behavior warrants punitive damages on top of economic and non-economic damages.
How much can you receive in punitive damages?
Many states have damage caps that apply to non-economic damages. A damage cap means that a jury cannot award more than a certain amount of money. Georgia imposes no damages cap for pain and suffering damages since the state Supreme Court ruled these limits unconstitutional.
In Georgia, product liability claims have no punitive damages cap. Personal injuries caused by the following behaviors also have no cap:
- Acting intentionally
- Failing to act
- Acting under the influence of alcohol
- Acting under the influence of prescription drugs, not taken according to the prescription
- Acting under the influence of intentionally consumed toxic vapors
Of the Georgia punitive damages award, 75% goes to the state treasury. So, plaintiffs usually receive little money from punitive damages even when a judge issues such damages.
However, when combined with other damages, punitive damages can contribute to a sizeable settlement. You want an attorney bold enough to request all applicable damages for your case.
File Your Personal Injury Lawsuit Today
The plaintiffs should file a personal injury lawsuit soon after their accident.
For personal injury cases, Georgia applies a statute of limitations of two years from the date of injury or death. Make sure you file your claim before this statute of limitations runs out.
To find out what damages you may claim, contact us here today or call (470) 577-8152. We can evaluate what economic, non-economic, and Georgia punitive damages fit best for your case.