Georgia Code §51-12-1 through 14

In Georgia, the question of whether punitive damages may be assessed is controlled by statute. The damages statute can be found in Georgia Code §51-12-1 through 14. Georgia’s statutory scheme is a comprehensive body of law that determines the nature of damages that an injured person can recover and the limitations on those damages. Additionally, Georgia’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court rule on cases in which the parties question how these laws apply if it is alleged that error occurred at the trial level. However, the combination of statutes and decisions from Georgia’s appellate courts create a large body of law.

If you have been injured in any type of accident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact Montlick & Associates today for your free consultation with an experienced Lawrenceville Personal Injury Attorneys

Punitive Damages Under Georgia Law

A jury may award punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages or vindictive damages, for a variety of reasons, such as willful, reckless, and wanton conduct. Most commonly, such damages are awarded in personal injury cases when the defendant caused an accident in part because of being intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol. However, a jury cannot award them in every case. The award of punitive damages, as the name implies, acts as a punishment for those whom the jury found committed a terrible act that injured another. The other aim of allowing a jury to impose punitive damages is deterrence of future misconduct.

As referenced above, obtaining an award for punitive damages is not easy because Georgia, through its statutes and decisions from its appellate courts, places strict limitations on punitive damages. The law authorizing a jury the ability to impose exemplary damages contains several limitations. For example, the law requires a plaintiff to ask for punitive damages specifically. Failing to make that request in the complaint filed by the plaintiff can prevent the plaintiff from seeking those damages later.

Burden of Proof Under Georgia Personal Injury Law

Another limitation, or barrier, to receiving punitive damages is the burden of proof the plaintiff must satisfy. The burden of proof in a civil case is a “fair preponderance of the credible evidence.” It basically means that the plaintiff must prove the defendant more likely than not committed the act which caused the plaintiff’s injuries. This is much lower than the more familiar criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, to acquire punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant committed the act willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, wantonly, or was indifferent to the consequences a person could suffer as a result of the conduct. This burden is easier to satisfy than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but harder than the “preponderance” standard. Satisfying this heavy burden requires a substantial amount of evidence.

The personal injury attorneys in Lawrenceville, GA at Montlick Injury Attorneys have a thorough understanding of Georgia law regarding punitive damages and when a jury may award them. Montlick Injury Attorneys fight vigorously for their clients to obtain punitive damages in the appropriate cases. If you or a loved one suffered an injury because of someone else’s reckless conduct, contact Montlick as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights as well as what steps can be taken to protect those rights.

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