Have you been injured in a car accident and are considering filing a personal injury claim? If so, you are likely curious about what sort of damages you can recover. Damages being the compensation you are awarded for your injuries and losses.
Most often, we hear about economic or non-economic damages, but there is one type that is highly relevant, just discussing less – punitive damages. Most clients don’t know what punitive damages are or if they could qualify for them.
To help make sense of punitive damages in Georgia, take a look at this guide from a car accident lawyer.
What are Punitive Damages?
Unlike other types of damages, punitive damages are not meant to be strictly compensation to the victim (plaintiff). Instead, punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer (defendant) for their negligence. The goal of punitive damages is to prevent the wrongdoer from similar behavior in the future, and also to deter others from doing the same.
Punitive damages are a factor in many types of personal injury claims. Some of the more common types of cases include:
- Drunk driving accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Hit-and-run accidents
- Assault and battery
- Sexual assault
- Dog bite injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
Punitive Damages in Georgia
In Georgia, a plaintiff may file a personal injury claim against anyone that harms them. This is common in car accident cases, especially when the person responsible for the accident was breaking the law or driving erratically.
In order to qualify for punitive damages, the plaintiff must first prove that they were damaged by the defendant. In many car accident cases, this is easy to do. For example, the plaintiff may have evidence to support their claim that the defendant was texting while driving, speeding, or was under the influence of alcohol. These are all actions that are against the law.
Any action or failure to act that directly harms someone else can also fall under these guidelines. Most personal injury cases involve a defendant who broke the law or was negligent when they caused injuries to the plaintiff. The key is proving that your injuries were a direct result of those actions.
If your injuries are not the direct result of the defendant’s actions, then you may not qualify for punitive damages. If someone was a contributor but was not directly responsible for your injuries, then you may qualify for compensatory damages from that person, but not punitive damages.
How Much Punitive Damages Can I Recover?
In any personal injury case, the amount of damages you can recover depends on the facts of your case – what happened, who was involved, where it happened, and the severity and type of injuries. While every case varies, state and federal laws do have some guidelines on how much damages you can recover.
In Georgia, the maximum punitive award you can receive by law is $250,000. The plaintiff generally receives 25%, with the remainder covering court costs and attorney fees, and a substantial percentage goes to the State of Georgia. However, there are three exceptions to this rule:
- Product liability
- Cases where the defendant was impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other substances
- Cases where the defendant acted (or failed to act) with specific intent to harm
The best way to find out what sort of damages you may qualify for is to speak with a car accident lawyer about your situation.