Punitive Damages

The main remedy available in personal injury cases is compensatory damages. These damages are intended to compensate injured victims for the consequences of the accident. Compensatory damages include medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and more.

In rarer cases, though, injured parties may be able to recover punitive damages. These damages are not intended to compensate the injured party. Instead, they are meant to punish the at-fault party for particularly egregious conduct. 

If punitive damages are available in your case, they may greatly increase the amount of compensation you’re able to recover. An experienced Lawrenceville personal injury lawyer can assess the damages that may be available in your case. 

When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Georgia?

When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Georgia?

Georgia’s punitive damages law states that they are available for “aggravating circumstances” to penalize, punish, or deter the defendant. Punitive damages also serve the function of deterring other people from committing similar acts in the future. They may also be called vindictive damages or exemplary damages. 

To warrant punitive damages, the injured party must prove that the defendant’s actions amounted to:

  • Willful misconduct
  • Malice
  • Fraud
  • Wantonness
  • Oppression
  • Entire want of care

The defendant’s conduct must have been more than mere negligence. Rather, it must have shown an intentional or reckless disregard for the safety of others. 

What Is the Burden of Proof for Punitive Damages?

In Georgia, the burden of proof for punitive damages is “clear and convincing evidence.” This is a higher burden of proof than the burden of proof for ordinary damages. 

In ordinary negligence cases, the injured party needs to prove that the at-fault party was negligent by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This requires showing that it is more likely than not that the defendant was negligent. Put another way, the plaintiff must show that there is a 50% or greater chance that the claims against the defendant are true. 

The burden of proof is higher for punitive damages, as the purpose is to punish the defendant. Clear and convincing evidence is enough evidence to show that there is a high and substantial probability that the claims against the defendant are true. This burden of proof is less than the extremely high burden of proof of “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases. However, it is higher than “by a preponderance of the evidence.” 

Examples of Cases Where Punitive Damages Are Awarded

Most personal injury cases only allow for compensatory damages. However, punitive damages are available in some types of personal injury cases. 

Some cases where punitive damages may be warranted include: 

  • A car accident involving drunk driving
  • A company knowingly sells a defective product that injures someone
  • A dog owner knows their dog has bitten someone before and lets the dog roam free to bite someone again

Punitive damages might be available if the injured party can prove that the defendant’s conduct was intentional or especially egregious. 

What Is My Punitive Damages Claim Worth?

Georgia law limits punitive damages to $250,000 for most personal injury cases. However, there are some exceptions to this. Punitive damages may exceed $250,000 in the following cases:

Product Liability

There is no limit on the amount of punitive damages in product liability cases in Georgia. However, 75% of the punitive damages awarded must be paid to the State of Georgia. The Plaintiff receives the remaining 25%. 

Defendant Was Under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol, or Other Substances

Georgia does not limit the amount of punitive damages in cases where the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, drugs (other than those legally prescribed and taken as prescribed), or other substances. 

Most commonly, this exception arises in driving under the influence cases. However, Georgia law makes it clear that this exception applies in any cases where punitive damages are awarded and the defendant was under the influence—not just in car accident cases. 

Specific Intent to Harm

Finally, Georgia does not impose a cap on punitive damages if the defendant acted with a specific intent to harm the plaintiff.  This is the most extreme type of conduct that punitive damages are intended to punish or deter. For that reason, the state does not impose a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be recovered. 

Contact Our Experienced Lawrenceville Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Punitive Damages 

If you’ve been injured in an accident due to someone else’s actions or inactions, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. In some cases, you may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to ordinary damages. Our Lawrenceville personal injury attorney will review your case and pursue any damages that may be available—including punitive damages. 

Contact Lawson Personal Injury Attorneys to schedule your free consultation today at 678-446-3655 and to learn more about punitive damages in Lawrenceville, GA.