- Punitive damages are awarded to an injured person or their family to punish the defendant and prevent them from engaging in the same malicious, reckless, or deceitful behavior in the future.
- When the public is made aware of the cost of punitive damages that resulted from an action, it can also help motivate others to avoid the same behavior.
- Punitive damages can increase a plaintiff’s award, but they must be proven in a lawsuit and are not guaranteed.
- Experienced personal injury attorneys understand how to prove and win punitive damages, which can help achieve more compensation for the plaintiff.
Punitive damages are mentioned all the time in the news. Drug companies or other large corporations are often cited as having to pay punitive damages when they engage in behavior that they know will harm others. But punitive damages are not reserved for major corporations – many insurance companies must pay punitive damages related to injury accidents, too.
Punitive damages are much more common than people think. They can be awarded even in small matters, such as car accidents, dog bites, slip-and-fall cases, and other similar injury accidents. However, these damages are not awarded for every case. Working with an experienced attorney who understands the laws and how to pursue punitive damages is your best bet to winning them in a personal injury case.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are one of three types of damages (along with economic and non-economic damages) that can be awarded in accident cases. Punitive damages are used to punish the negligent person or organization and deter them or others from engaging in the same malicious, reckless, or deceitful behavior again.
These damages are awarded to the plaintiff in addition to any other damages, such as economic damages for medical expenses or non-economic damages for pain and suffering.
What Is Georgia’s Punitive Damages Statute?
Punitive damages are assessed under O.C.G.A. §51-12-5.1 and are sometimes known as vindictive damages or exemplary damages. Punitive damages are only awarded when the defendant’s conduct is outrageous, malicious, or obviously reckless. A good example of the sort of behavior that would warrant punitive damages is drunk driving.
What Are the Benefits of Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages not only increase the total award given to the plaintiff, but they can also help deter the defendant and others from engaging in the reckless or malicious action in the future.
When the public is aware punitive damages were awarded for specific misconduct, it can help encourage them to avoid similar behavior and the expensive consequences.
What Other Damages Can Be Awarded After a Car Accident?
The two other types of damages that are awarded in car accident lawsuits are economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are easily calculated and include things like your medical bills, and if you’ve missed work due to the accident, lost wages. Non-economic damages are less easily calculated and include things like pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
Are There Challenges to Bringing Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?
When seeking punitive damages, a plaintiff must show clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s behavior was reckless, malicious, consciously indifferent, or culpable Some negligent actions, like not stopping at a stop sign or taking your eyes off the road for a second, are not considered reckless or malicious because they do not intentionally put others at unreasonable risk.
The plaintiff must also show that the defendant did not care about the potential consequences of their actions. This means that the person must have engaged in conduct that they knew or should have known was horribly reckless, such as drunk driving. Showing mere negligence on the part of the defendant is not enough.
Why Is It Important to Bring Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?
When a defendant was malicious or indifferent in their actions that resulted in a car accident, there are several reasons why bringing punitive damages is important.
The increased punishment of punitive damages can help deter the defendant from engaging in that type of behavior again, which can make the defendant a safer driver. Punitive damages may also prevent others from engaging in similar behavior because they know that the conduct has expensive consequences.
Can Adding Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case Increase a Plaintiff’s Award?
If a plaintiff is awarded punitive damages in the case, their award increases because they get to keep the punitive damage award. However, punitive damages are not guaranteed just because they are alleged; they must be proven.
What Types of Evidence Are Used to Prove Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages can only be awarded when the defendant is found to be reckless, malicious, or had total disregard for the consequences of their actions. The plaintiff must prove this by demonstrating that the defendant either had a pattern of similar behavior in the past or that the actions taken were so risky that any reasonable person would have recognized the potential consequences. A good example of behavior that may command a punitive damage award is texting while driving.
Why Is It Important to Hire an Attorney When Seeking Punitive Damages for a Car Accident Case?
Working with an attorney is almost always going to increase the amount of compensation you receive from a car accident case. This is because attorneys are far more familiar with the laws and evidence needed to prove things like punitive damages. They also know how to connect with a jury to demonstrate exactly how your injuries have impacted your life.
Without the guidance of an experienced car accident attorney, you may not be able to determine whether punitive damages are appropriate. However, knowledgeable personal injury attorneys know when punitive damages apply and for what amount to ask.
- What Are Punitive Damages?
- What Is the Georgia Punitive Damages Statute?
- What Are the Benefits of Punitive Damages?
- What Other Damages Can Be Awarded After a Car Accident?
- Are There Challenges to Bringing Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?
- Why Is It Important to Bring Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?
- Can Adding Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case Increase a Plaintiff’s Award?
- What Types of Evidence Are Used to Prove Punitive Damages?
- Why Is It Important to Hire an Attorney When Seeking Punitive Damages for a Car Accident Case?