If you are involved in an accident and injured because of someone else’s negligence, you have the right to file a claim for compensatory damages. However, you may also wonder if your case entitles you to receive punitive damages.
It is important to understand that punitive damages are not awarded as a means of compensation for plaintiffs (accident victims). Instead, they are intended to punish the defendant (the at-fault party). While punitive damages are not commonly awarded in personal injury cases, they may be considered by the court if the situation involves significant wrongdoing or irresponsibility.
If you believe your case may entitle you to punitive damages, work with an Atlanta personal injury lawyer who can review the facts and help you understand your rights.
Punitive Damages vs. Compensatory Damages
If you sustain an injury or loss because of another person or party’s wrongful accidents, you can present evidence against them by filing a personal injury claim in civil court. If you have evidence that shows the accused party was responsible for your injuries or losses, the court may award them to pay you damages.
Compensatory damages are the most common types of damages awarded in civil cases. As the name implies, these damages are calculated to reimburse you for the negative effect of your injuries or losses. You can receive compensation for medical costs, damaged or lost property, lost wages, pain, and suffering lost earning capacity, and more.
In situations where the impact was minimal on your life, you may receive nominal damages. These are symbolic gestures that acknowledge you were harmed in some way.
Punitive damages are unique. Instead of compensating victims, these are ordered to deter, penalize, or punish the other party. You may hear punitive damages called “vindictive or exemplary damages.”
In the state of Georgia, courts are allowed to provide additional damages to a victim without calling them punitive. In these cases, the compensation is used to deter a defendant from similar actions in the future or given as compensation for a plaintiff’s wounded feelings.
Why Courts Seldomly Award Punitive Damages
Most courts are hesitant to award punitive damages. One reason is punitive damages should not be applied to cases where the law allows for other means of punishment for those who act in a wrong or irresponsible manner. Criminal laws, for example, are designed to punish wrongdoers, while civil judgments are used to resolve disputes between private parties. To help maintain this distinction, punitive damages are only awarded in cases that involve egregious actions or behaviors.
Understanding Punitive Damages
As you can see, punitive damages are not available in all cases. However, they are available if the court believes they are owed.
It is smart to hire an attorney to review the facts of your case and determine if you are eligible for these damages. You have legal rights when someone else causes you injuries. Protecting these rights can be challenging, but an experienced personal injury lawyer can help.