People file civil cases for a nearly limitless amount of reasons, but most cases can be summed up as seeking to make someone stop or start engaging in an activity, a contract dispute, or a dispute over damages. The various types of awards granted are used to try and make a party whole again or at the very least compensate them for their injuries.
In civil disputes involving damages there are two types of compensation that can be awarded to a party in the case. The first and most common type of damages awarded in a civil case are compensatory, which are meant to compensate a plaintiff for the loss or injury they suffered. The second type of damages that can be awarded in a civil case are called punitive damages and are used as a punishment against the defendant rather than compensation for the plaintiff.
Punitive damages can only be awarded to the plaintiff in a few situations. In Georgia, the plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with intent or that their conduct was so reckless that the defendant was indifferent about the consequences. Driving under the influence of any number of substances including alcohol is enough to meet the requirements for a punitive damage award in Georgia.
Punitive judgments fall into two categories: those with a $250,000 cap on the award and those with no limitation on the amount that can be awarded. Cases involving drunk drivers have no punitive damage limit.
Source: LexisNexis, "O.C.G.A. TITLE 51 Chapter 12," Accessed on Sept. 26, 2014