Many times we will see headlines in the news media about a verdict in a personal injury case reaching many millions of dollars. In some cases those verdicts come about simply because the injuries caused cost the victims that much money to be repaired. In other cases there is an award of punitive damages which brought about the large verdict. If you have questions about whether punitive damages will factor into your personal injury case, contact an Atlanta personal injury lawyer for a consultation.
The legal doctrine of punitive damages has developed over the years through many cases that have led to a system in which a certain class of people who cause harm have to pay more than others. The extra payment comes because of policy decisions handed down through time to try to prevent the most damaging behaviors in society.
Punitive Damages in General
The term punitive damages refers to money the at-fault party is ordered to pay to a victim after an accident as a form of punishment. The word punitive means to punish, and damages (in a legal context) means the monetary loss suffered by a defendant in a case. All victim of personal injuries are entitled to regular, compensatory damages they suffer when they can prove a person was negligent in causing them harm, but not every victim is entitled to punitive damages.
Punitive damages are reserved for those cases in which a bad actor goes beyond mere negligence and causes a great deal of harm. The public policy behind allowing punitive damages in a personal injury case is complex and includes:
- Punishing the type of behavior that goes beyond simple negligence or a bad judgment call;
- Preventing similar acts from third-parties by punishing them in the first place;
- Compensating victims who suffer through mindless, harmful, and needless acts by others;
These and other policy considerations make punitive damages an important part of our legal system.
Georgia Law and Punitive Damages
Georgia, like all other states, has laws that implement the common law policy known as punitive damages. If you are the victim of a personal injury and would like to know whether your case qualifies for punitive damages, you should talk with an Atlanta personal injury lawyer before coming to any conclusions. Below are a few of the basics regarding punitive damages and Georgia law.
The primary law dealing with punitive damages in Georgia is found in O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. That section of the code says that punitive damages are available in a case where the conduct of the bad actor shows:
- Willful misconduct;
- The conscious disregard to negative consequences.
These are all strong ways to describe the kind of conduct that can result in punitive damages being awarded to a victim of a personal injury.
Your Personal Injury Attorney in Atlanta
If you are the victim of a personal injury in or around the Atlanta area, you need the right legal team fighting for your rights. Whether injured in a car accident, slip and fall at a store, or other type of injury, contact a personal injury attorney in Atlanta to understand what your options are. Contact as at The Angell Law Firm where we will help you understand what you can do next.
(image courtesy of Aidan Bartos)