I was injured in Georgia, will my damages be capped?
In personal injury cases, such as car accidents, medical malpractice, and slip and fall cases, the injured person can seek monetary compensation from the person or entity that caused him or her harm. Most of these cases involve someone who is negligent, like a driver texting while behind the wheel, or a doctor failing to diagnose something that they should have noticed. Compensation comes in the form of damages. Damages are divided into special damages, and general damages, and punitive damages.
Categories of damages
Special damages mostly refer to medical expenses and lost wages. In essence, special damages are the type of damages that a number can be assigned to through the use of records and estimates. Medical bills, estimates for future medical expenses, lost wages, and estimates of lost future earnings would all be considered special damages because it is possible to come up with an itemization of exactly how much financial loss the injured person suffered as a result of the accident.
General damages, in contrast, are for things like pain and suffering, and emotional distress. While pain and suffering are undoubtedly very real things, as is emotional distress, it is extremely difficult to put a number value on things like pain and distress. Suffering pain does not necessarily mean a loss of money, but the law permits monetary compensation for the pain experienced by injured individuals injured in accidents for which others are liable. In Georgia, pain and suffering is determined by diagnoses, length of treatment, type of treatment, whether the victim was permanently disabled, and other factors.
In some cases, punitive damages are awarded as well. These damages are not to compensate the injured person, but to punish the person who caused the injury in cases where there was particularly egregious conduct.
You might have heard about states making efforts to "cap" damages in lawsuits. Capping damages means that the amount of damages an individual is able to recover for a claim will be limited. If a cap is set at 300,000 dollars, then even if a jury thinks an individual should get one million dollars, the individual will only be able to get the 300,000.
It is important to note that these caps are often only placed on general damages, like pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Thus, a cap of 300,000 would not limit a person from recovering the 750,000 in medical bills they incurred, or the 400,000 in lost earnings.
In Georgia, a law was enacted that would have limited general damages to $350,000. However, in 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court found the law to be in violation of Georgia's state constitution, which gives plaintiffs the right to a trial by jury. As such, there are no longer a damages caps in Georgia.
This is important for individuals injured in accidents in Georgia because it means that a jury can award the amount that they feel is appropriate, and it will not be reduced based on a cap.
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