A few different types of damages can be awarded to a plaintiff after a successful trial. While most of these damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff, there are other cases where the defendant’s conduct is so egregious that punitive damages might be awarded.
An award for punitive damages is rare in Georgia as they are intended to punish a defendant and detour similar future behavior. A skilled Georgia personal injury lawyer could be helpful when trying to determine if the reckless conduct of another person caused your injuries. However, Georgia law restricts the number of punitive damages you can receive in certain cases.
If you were injured in an accident and would like to learn whether punitive damages might be awarded in your case, our Georgia personal injury lawyers can help. Contact Howe Law at (844) 876-4357 for a free case review today.
Are Punitive Damages Available in Georgia?
Punitive damages are a type of compensation that a person can claim only in a personal injury lawsuit. Punitive damages are allowed in cases involving aggravating circumstances or the other party’s conduct was especially appalling. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b) provides several examples where a defendant’s conduct would necessitate an award for punitive damages:
- Willful misconduct
- That entire want of care would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences
This type of behavior goes far beyond negligence. Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers can help if you believe the wanton disregard of another person caused your injuries. Our Georgia personal injury lawyers
What is the Purpose of Punitive Damages in Georgia?
Punitive damages differ from the typical types of compensation usually awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. The common types of damages awarded are compensatory, meaning they are intended to compensate the victim for their injuries. This includes compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and non-economic damages, like pain and emotional suffering.
On the other hand, punitive damages are specifically intended to punish a defendant for conduct beyond simple negligence. Even though the victim will receive some compensation from the punitive damages award, they are not necessarily meant to repay the victim for the harm they suffered. Punitive damages have the public policy goal of not only punishing a defendant but also discouraging similar acts by other parties in the future. Our Biloxi personal injury lawyers can review the facts of your case to determine whether punitive damages might be awarded to punish the other party.
Common Types of Cases in Which Punitive Damages are Awarded in Georgia?
There are many types of cases in which punitive damages might be awarded. Because punitive damages are meant to send a message, they are common in high-profile cases involving large corporations and public figures. However, they are also awarded in more common cases where the defendant’s conduct is clearly egregious. The following are common types of cases where punitive damages are likely to be awarded in Georgia:
- Products liability
- Medical malpractice
- DUI accidents
- Hit-and-run accidents
- Assault and battery
- Sexual abuse
- Workplace discrimination
- Trucking accidents
- Nursing home abuse
This list is not exhaustive. Virtually any personal injury case could include a claim for punitive damages if the accident was caused by a person’s wanton and reckless behavior. Our Gulfport personal injury lawyers can fight for you if the facts of your case demand an award for punitive damages.
How to Recover Punitive Damages in a Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Punitive damages have different requirements when filing a lawsuit than compensatory damages. In most personal injury lawsuits, compensatory damages are generally claimed and proved later in a settlement negotiation or trial. However, under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(d)(1), an award of punitive damages must be specifically claimed in a complaint. This means that the reckless conduct that caused your injuries, and the real damages you suffered as a result, must be specifically identified in your lawsuit. If they are not claimed in your lawsuit, your claim for punitive damages is considered waived and cannot be raised later during the case. Our Georgia personal injury lawyers can help you ensure that the punitive damages in your case are identified, and your lawsuit filed correctly.
What is the Burden of Proof to Establish Punitive Damages in a Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit?
There is a stricter burden of proof for a plaintiff to establish that the defendant’s conduct was so appalling that punitive damages should be awarded. A plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct rose to the level to necessitate an award for punitive damages. This is a higher standard than typical damages in a negligence case, which only needs to be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. However, the clear and convincing evidence standard is not as high as the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, which is the standard used in criminal trials. Our Savannah personal injury lawyers can help explain how the burden of proof will impact your punitive damages claim.
Are Punitive Damages Capped in Georgia?
Unfortunately, punitive damages are capped in the state of Georgia. According to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(g), punitive damages are capped at $250,000. There are exceptions to the cap, however. Georgia law provides three specific exceptions where there is no damage cap:
- Product liability cases
- If the defendant acted with the specific intent to harm the plaintiff
- If a defendant was under the influence of illegal drugs, inhalants, or alcohol
While there is no cap in these particular cases, there is still a caveat if punitive damages are awarded under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(e)(2), 75% of the punitive damages awarded in a case will go to the state of Georgia. The plaintiff will be awarded the remaining 25%, along with attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Our Georgia personal injury lawyers can help determine if Georgia’s punitive damages cap will apply to your case.
Our Georgia Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
If you believe your injuries were caused by the outrageous conduct of another person and deserve punitive damages, our Warner Robins personal injury lawyers can help you hold them accountable. For a free case assessment, call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.