In personal injury cases, there are two types of damages awarded to a prevailing plaintiff (i.e. injured party):
Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages.
Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the injured party for the cost of medical care, property damage, lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses. The purpose of a civil lawsuit is to put the plaintiff back in the position he or she was in prior to the injury. An amount designated as pain and suffering is also a compensatory damage. This amount is to provide you with a financial award to compensate for your pain and suffering.
On the other hand, punitive damages are not meant to give you back something you lost due to the injury. They are meant to punish the defendant for conduct that was especially egregious. The philosophy behind punitive damages is one to punish the defendant for the behavior but to also send a message to society in general that there are serious consequences for this type of action and injury.
Some egregious conduct in personal injury cases where punitive damages are justified are as follows:
- Driving under the influence (there are no caps for recovery);
- Hit-and-run, leaving the scene of a wreck, and failure to render aid;
- Driving with medical conditions which could cause blackouts (Defendant’s Primary Care Physician must have instructed the defendant to not drive with their current medical condition).
In Georgia, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct demonstrates willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression or an entire want of care that raises a presumption conscious indifference to the consequences. O.C.G.A 51-12-5.1. Georgia law also caps the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded to $250,000.
If you have been injured and need assistance, please contact the AJ Law Practice today.