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What Are Punitive Damages in a Georgia Personal Injury Case?

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Posted By Legal Team | December 20 2023 | Georgia Laws, Personal Injury

Injuries happen every day but when they occur due to someone else’s actions they are especially distressing. Georgia’s tort law offers redress to victims of preventable injuries through a Georgia personal injury claim. A successful personal injury claim helps victims to recover their financial losses plus compensation for their pain and suffering—known as “damages” in civil court. But what are punitive damages in a Georgia personal injury claim?

Georgia’s Laws for Claiming Punitive Damages for Personal Injury

Injury law focuses on the belief that we all owe a general duty of care to take reasonable actions to avoid causing harm to others. If an individual or a business entity breaches their duty of reasonable care, they are responsible for the damages caused to others due to their careless or negligent actions. Atlanta personal injury attorneys handling successful injury claims in Georgia result in the injured victim recovering the following common damages from the at-fault party’s appropriate insurance policy:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses related to the injury
  • Reimbursement for lost income
  • Future income loss
  • Diminished earning capacity due to injury-related disability
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma and other non-economic damages like loss of enjoyment of life compensation

However, when an injury results from someone else’s purposefully wrongful or particularly egregious acts of negligent or reckless behavior, the victim may also claim punitive damages in a Georgia personal injury case. 

What are Punitive Damages and When Do They Apply?

Most damages claimed in personal injury cases serve as compensation to the victim who has suffered financial losses and other consequences due to another person or business’s careless action—known as negligence in personal injury claims. However, if the at-fault party’s actions are beyond careless and show complete disregard for the consequences they caused to others, the injury victim may also file a claim for punitive damages. Unlike other types of damages in Georgia personal injury claims, punitive damages serve as a punishment to the wrongdoer and as a deterrent to future egregious actions instead of as compensation to a victim. However, filing a claim for punitive damages can substantially increase the settlement or jury award for damages an injury victim receives for their claim.

Punitive damage claims are separate and independent of any criminal charges against the at-fault party. For example, if someone commits an act of violence against another or causes an accident by driving while intoxicated, they may face criminal charges as well as a victim’s claim for damages. Regardless of the verdict in criminal court, a claim for damages proceeds as a separate matter. In personal injury claims for punitive damages in Georgia, the injury victim is only required to prove that it’s more likely than not that the defendant caused their injury.

Is There a Cap on Punitive Damages in Georgia?

Many states place limits, or caps, on the amount an injury victim may claim for punitive damages. Georgia caps most claims for punitive damages at no more than $250,000. Some exceptions to this cap apply, including in cases of injury caused by defective products, intoxicated defendants, or when a defendant acts with the intention to injure or cause harm to the victim.

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