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An overview of punitive damages in Georgia


Most of our Georgia readers know that a personal injury lawsuit in the aftermath of a car accident can result in an award of compensation for the injured party. Negligent drivers can be held accountable for their recklessness. However, what many of our readers may not know about is an award of punitive damages.

Punitive damages can be awarded in a case specifically to punish defendants for their willful misconduct or malice. In contrast to an award of compensation to a plaintiff - an award intended to make the plaintiff whole again - punitive damages are meant to penalize and deter the defendant.

However, seeking punitive damages in a lawsuit comes with some special requirements. First, the complaint in the case must specifically request punitive damages. And, if the case proceeds to trial, the trier of fact must make a specific finding as to whether or not punitive damages will be awarded. In most cases involving an award of punitive damages, those damages are limited to a maximum of $250,000.00.

Cases that involve a request for punitive damages will usually be the "worst of the worst." After all, while the vast majority of car accidents occur due to one driver's negligence, that behavior, however unforgiveable, is usually not "wanton" or motivated by "malice," as is required under Georgia law to obtain an award of punitive damages. But, just because seeking punitive damages is not all that common doesn't mean that it doesn't come up in certain case where the party at fault acted with extreme disregard for the safety and lives of other people on the roads.

Source: justia.com, "Title 51, Chapter 12, Section 5.1," Accessed May 31, 2015

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