Georgia is a “fault state,” which means if there is an accident resulting in injuries, the person or entity responsible for the accident is liable for damages. If you were injured at no fault of your own in Georgia, you may be entitled to make a personal injury claim for your costs. And sometimes, the money awarded an injury victim includes punitive damages.
How Punitive Damages Work in a Georgia Injury Claim
Compensatory damages are most common in a personal injury claim. Those include costs like medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages. But punitive damages are different. According to Georgia law, punitive damages are awarded when the at-fault person’s actions were clearly malicious, wanton, oppressive, or fraudulent.
Unlike compensatory damages, which are an attempt to make the victim “whole again,” punitive damages are meant to punish and further discourage the behavior of the person or entity that led to the accident. A victim may win both types of damages in an injury case, although punitive damages are often worth a lot more.
Although the possibility of punitive damages varies per case, some situations that may apply include:
- Product liability accidents where the manufacturer knowingly sold something harmful
- Drunk driving accidents that led to death
- Nursing home abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Hit and run accidents, especially in cases where the other motorist was clearly injured
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How to Make an Injury Claim for Punitive Damages in Georgia
To make an injury claim for punitive damages, there are some key factors you’ll need to understand, including the type of evidence you’ll need and—if you’re successful—how punitive damages are awarded to you.
Gathering Convincing Evidence
If you were injured and believe you have a claim that includes punitive damages, it’s best to speak with an Atlanta personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They can examine the details of your case and make sure you have the right evidence. Then, they can help you file a personal injury claim that includes this evidence.
To seek punitive damages, you will need more proof that what’s normally required for compensatory damages. In most cases, your evidence of malicious or wanton intent must be clear and convincing. It typically comes down to “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the party can be liable if the evidence against them is greater than 50%.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded, so you will need help building a strong case with the correct evidence. This can be complicated and depends wholly on the details of your accident, so your lawyer can advise on the best way to prove punitive damages.
Awarding of Punitive Damages
If you win punitive damages, you won’t actually receive all of them like you would with other damages. That’s because, besides awarding you from what you’ve suffered, the main purpose of punitive damages is to discourage future bad behavior (from the at-fault person and others).
In Georgia, 75% of a punitive damage award (minus a portion of your litigation costs, such as lawyer fees) is paid to the Georgia State Treasury. Punitive damages are not calculated based on the costs of your injuries. They are determined based on an account big enough to punish the at-fault party for their actions.
Georgia Limits on Punitive Damages
The cap on punitive damages varies widely by state. In Georgia, the maximum you can receive for most punitive damage cases is $250,000. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed in 2003 that punitive damages cannot exceed compensatory damages by a 9:1 ratio.
There are a couple of exceptions where there is no cap on punitive damages:
- Product liability cases
- Cases where the at-fault party clearly intended to do harm (such as an outright assault)
- Or if the negligent party was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or intentionally-consumed toxic vapors like aerosol or glue
Need Help with Your Punitive Damages Case?
If you were hurt by someone else’s actions in Georgia and believe you may be eligible for punitive damages, call a personal injury lawyer in the Atlanta area right away. You will need experienced and competent legal representation to prove your case, and it’s best to get started as soon as you can.
At John Foy & Associates, we can help. Our goal is full compensation of your damages, including any punitive damages you are entitled to. We don’t take any payment unless we win you money. For a FREE consultation, call us today at 404-400-4000, or contact us here.