Seeking Punitive Damages in Georgia Hit and Run Accident Claims
While any motor vehicle accident can be upsetting and pose challenging legal and insurance issues, hit and run accidents involve special legal issues for the runner and complications for the injured party pursuing financial compensation. This blog post discusses a few of the legal obligations of drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents, as well as when punitive damages might be recoverable for victims seeking compensation. Our Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyers at Montlick and Associates have have been working hard to help injured people, including those involved in hit and run accidents, get the compensation they deserve.
When motorists are involved in a car crash, they have certain legal duties. Although these legal obligations vary depending on state law, the minimum requirement for an accident with injuries usually entails summoning emergency services. Many states require a driver to go further, such as providing assistance at the scene or transporting the injured party to a medical facility for treatment.
Duties at Accident Scenes Imposed on Georgia Drivers
Georgia is one of many states that imposes a more expansive duty than just summoning emergency assistance when parties are involved in a car accident. If a collision causes any individual to suffer injury or death, the accident must be reported to local authorities pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273. This duty to report the accident also applies if the extent of the damage appears to amount to $500 or more.
Drivers involved in any car crash that causes injury, death or vehicle damage must stop immediately (presuming it is safe to do so) and remain at the scene. Both motorists are require to provide the following information: (1) name, address and vehicle registration number; (2) driver's license upon request (if available); and (3) render reasonable assistance to any injured party. This duty to render assistance may include transporting or arranging for transport of any injured party to a doctor, surgeon or hospital for medical attention. Motorists are required to remain at the accident scene until these obligations have been fulfilled.
Punitive Damages in Hit and Run Accidents
In a personal injury lawsuit involving hit and run, the plaintiff stands a better chance of recovering punitive damages against a driver that flees the scene. In broad terms, punitive damages are reserved for injury cases where the conduct of the defendant causes harm in a reckless or intentional manner, or behaves in an especially egregious way.
When a person is injured in a hit and run collision, the plaintiff (party filing a lawsuit) can seek damages that are intended to compensate the victim for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and other forms of loss. Generally, compensatory damages must be directly proportionate to the harm experienced by the plaintiff without regard to the misconduct of the defendant.
Punitive damages (also referred to as "exemplary damages") are not intended to compensate the plaintiff. The function of this type of damage award is to discourage similar conduct in the future and punish particularly unacceptable and/or dangerous conduct. While the nature of the misconduct is one factor in determining a punitive damage award, the financial resources of the defendant also must be considered. The amount awarded in punitive damages must be sufficient to "punish" the defendant given his or her wealth and financial situation.
Exemplary Damages for Accidental Crashes Involving Hit and Run Accidents
Simple negligence, such as glancing at a stalled vehicle on the side of the road when rear-ending a car generally will not justify punitive damages without more. However, all Georgia motorists are deemed to be aware of their obligation to stop and render assistance at the site of a crash. The intentional act of leaving the scene of an accident can constitute a basis for punitive damages even if the accident was a matter of an error in judgment or brief lapse in attention. The party that commits a hit and run may also face serious criminal charges.
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Contact Montlick and Associates for your free consultation to learn about your legal rights and the steps that need to be taken to protect those rights. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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