Punitive Damages in Georgia:
What You Need to Know

Learn about punitive damages in Georgia, including what qualifies and the limitations on awards. Discover how to seek them in your lawsuit.

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Your Right to Punitive Damages – Georgia Law, Revisited

In serious personal injury cases in Georgia, victims are entitled to compensation from the at-fault party for their economic and non-economic damages. However, if the accident was committed clearly with deliberate negligence, aggravating circumstances, conscious indifference to consequences, or specific intent to cause harm, a court judge or jury may require the liable party to pay punitive damages to the victim. But that is only possible if the victim files a personal injury lawsuit.

Essentially, an award of punitive damages is given not to compensate the victims but rather to punish the party who was deliberately negligent or aggressive or showed willful misconduct. To deter people from attempting similar offenses in the future, the court may require the defendant to pay larger compensatory damages.

To secure a punitive damages award, the victims must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted in gross negligence or malice. Psychological harm alone is not sufficient. This is where Dressie Law Firm can help you.

Our experienced personal injury attorney in Atlanta can help you build a strong case that can convince a judge or jury to award punitive damages in your favor.

Read on to learn more about punitive damages in Georgia and how our law firm can assist with proving your punitive damages claim.

    What Are Punitive Damages?

    According to GA Code § 51-12-5.1, punitive damages are awarded in such tort actions where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that “the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”

    Punitive damages are also known as vindictive and exemplary damages because they are also considered a warning to the defendant and possible offenders.

    Examples of cases where punitive damages are awarded include:

    • Traffic accidents caused by an impaired driver by alcohol or a substance other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription

    • A defective product that caused injury to consumers if it can be proven that the manufacturer knew about the defect

    • Medical malpractice cases

    How Punitive Damages Differ From Compensatory Damages

    The desired outcomes of compensatory and punitive damages are primarily what differentiate them. These damages represent two different possible outcomes of a personal injury lawsuit.

    Punitive damages aim to punish those who are at fault for their intentional or malicious actions. On the other hand, compensatory damages are meant to aid the victim for the injury and damage they sustained. Punitive damages are awarded only in special cases, while compensatory damages are awarded as a given as long as there is injury or damage.

    Compensation for negative effects brought on by the wrongdoing of another party can be provided in the form of compensatory damages. Compensatory or actual damages are the main type of compensation given in personal injury lawsuits.

    Some negligence cases lead to compensatory damages but not punitive damages. In Georgia, negligence alone cannot qualify for punitive damages. There needs to be a deliberate, malicious, or grossly negligent act or absence of an act harming the other party for this kind of damage to be awarded.

    When Are Punitive Damages Applicable in Georgia?

    GA Code § 51-12-5 provides that punitive damages are awarded when there are aggravating circumstances in a tort action. Aggravating circumstances are factors that increase the culpability or severity of an action.

    An award of punitive damages has to be specifically requested in the complaint. The trial judge cannot award punitive damages if there is no such request from the injured plaintiff. It must be established that the defendant was the tortfeasor, i.e., the person or entity responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.

    During the trial, the plaintiff must first prove that he is entitled to punitive damages. There must be a verdict from the judge or jury specifically mentioning that punitive damages are to be awarded. After that, the trial will recommence, this time for the trial court to resolve how much punitive damages may be awarded. The amount must be specified in the order.

    How Are Punitive Damages Calculated?

    Punitive damages are calculated based on the extent of the victim’s injuries and the nature of the defendant’s actions.

    Injuries will be assessed and checked by medical professionals to support your evidence. They can also state how long recovery would take and the expenses incurred. They can also note down your needed treatment plan and medicine.

    The court will also consider the defendant’s act that led to the victim’s injury when determining the amount of punitive damages awarded. In cases that involve intentional harm by the defendant, such as assault and fraud, the judge may consider a higher punitive damages award.

    Your personal injury lawyers will need the input of medical professionals to accurately quantify the damages paid by the offending party. If you are shown to have suffered more, there will likely be more punitive damages to be paid.

    Punitive Damages Limitations in Georgia

    Georgia has a statutory cap of $250,000 on punitive damages amount in all civil claims except in the following cases:

    • Product liability claims, such as when a defective product causes injury

    • Any tort case where the defendant is proven to have acted or failed to act due to:

      • The influence of alcohol, drugs, or prohibited substances, except lawfully prescribed drugs.

      • The intentional consumption of aerosol, glue, or other toxic vapor that substantially impaired his or her judgment.

    • Any tort case where the defendant is proven to have acted with the intention to harm the victim

    To Whom Are Punitive Damages in Georgia Paid?

    Punitive damages in Georgia are always paid to the plaintiff except in cases of product liability. Seventy-five percent (75%) of punitive damages in product liability cases, minus reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs, go to the state treasury.

    How Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    Personal injury cases can be challenging, especially when involving devastating or fatal accidents. At Dressie Law Firm, we have seasoned lawyers who can guide you through your personal injury case and ensure you obtain the maximum compensation possible. We have represented clients in many personal injury claims and helped them get the justice they deserve.

    Our team of experienced lawyers is always up-to-date with changes to state laws, including those related to punitive damage limits. We are familiar with every possible avenue for proving your personal injury claim and seeking compensation on your behalf.

    We also understand the complexities of taking a case to the Georgia Supreme Court and have successfully litigated cases before it and other lower courts in the state. Our team is prepared to help you navigate through the legal process, collect evidence, and argue your case before a judge or jury.

    If you need assistance with a personal injury claim in Georgia, contact us today to schedule your free consultation. Our dedicated team of lawyers will listen to your case, provide legal advice, and help you get the compensation you deserve. With Dressie Law Firm on your side, you can rest assured that we will fight for your rights and hold those responsible accountable.

    The Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    If you or a loved one is a victim of a reckless or negligent driver, we want you to know that the law is on your side and so is the Dressie Law Firm.

    Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!