Punitive Damages Are Non-Compensatory
Punitive damages are just one kind of non-compensatory financial penalty for at-fault parties. We won’t list the others here, as most aren’t relevant to personal injury cases.
Punitive damages are meant to punish a person who acted recklessly or even intentionally caused harm (an “active tortfeasor”). They’re also used to discourage the defendant’s actions in the future. Although rarely awarded, punitive damages are a powerful tool to help injured people and send a clear message about reckless behavior.
For example, in a case of elder abuse by a nursing home staff member, punitive damages may be awarded if the abuse went beyond negligence and involved specific intent. The staff member deserves a punishment for mistreating the resident, and the court wants to let everyone know that such actions carry maximum consequences.
Is There a Cap on Punitive Damages in Georgia Law?
Not every state puts a cap on the amount of punitive damages, but Georgia does. In general, punitive damages are capped at $250,000, but a couple of exceptions exist:
- The defendant specifically intended to harm the injured person.
- The defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs (not including legally prescribed drugs or certain toxic vapors).
- Some product liability cases
Note that punitive damages might also be called vindictive damages, exemplary damages, deterrent damages, or additional damages. An insurance company may or may not pay punitive damages—another good reason to work with an attorney.
Do I Need an Attorney to Get an Award of Punitive Damages?
Technically, you don’t need a lawyer to get any kind of damages. However, having a lawyer is helpful at every stage of your lawsuit, and it greatly increases your chances of getting fair damages—especially rarely awarded punitive damages.
An attorney is far more experienced than most when it comes to negotiating punitive damages claims. Further, they have access to various experts as they build your case. From top doctors to accident reconstructionists, these experts can present convincing evidence that makes punitive damages far more likely.