Potential Damages in a Georgia Car Accident Lawsuit
In the state of Georgia, if you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts of a third-party, you may be entitled to damages accounting for the various losses that you have suffered. Damages available in Georgia car accident lawsuits operate much the same as in other jurisdictions — plaintiffs may recover compensatory damages and, infrequently, may be awarded punitive damages in cases involving conduct that is particularly egregious.
Have you been injured in a car accident due to the fault of another? You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, in accordance with Georgia law. As with other injury claims, there is a statute of limitations that applies to car accident claims — failure to pursue litigation before the deadline will result in forfeiture of your claim, so make sure to consult with an experienced Woodstock car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Damages are critical to a lawsuit. Even if you succeed in proving that the defendant is liable for their negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing, your case result may not be favorable unless you can recover your asserted damages in full. For example, suppose that you are claiming damages equivalent to $500,000. If you win your case (i.e., prove that the defendant is liable), but the jury finds that your damages are only $100,000 in total, then that is a lost opportunity to obtain full and adequate compensation for your injuries.
In the pre-trial litigation phase, evidence of significant damages can help you secure an early and favorable settlement with the defendant. If the defendant believes that your success at trial could lead to significant damages, they may be more willing to avoid the risk of trial litigation and negotiate.
Damages are separated into categories based on their function. Let’s take an introductory look at these basic categories: compensatory and punitive.
In personal injury lawsuits (including car accident lawsuits), damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. In other words, damages are meant to put the plaintiff in a position that closely approximates their position if the accident had never occurred. For example, if the plaintiff loses their job due to serious injuries that render them incapable of working anymore, then the damages must account for this loss somehow (i.e., through past and future wage loss damages that approximate the total lifetime losses attributable to being rendered incapable of working). Fundamentally, compensatory damages must be reasonably related to the actual losses — they are not intended to be substantially lower or higher than the actual losses.
Compensatory damages can be broken down further into two subcategories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are linked to monetary losses. Economic damages include:
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Property loss
- Past wage loss
- Future wage loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- And more
Non-economic damages are linked to subjective losses that cannot be objectively measured, and as such, estimations of non-economic damages tend to vary substantially. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Deterioration in quality of life
- Mental and emotional distress
- And more
Punitive damages (sometimes referred to as exemplary damages or vindictive damages) are quite different than compensatory damages. Whereas compensatory damages are an attempt to “rebuild” the plaintiff in a manner that closely approximates their life if the accident had not occurred, punitive damages are not focused on the plaintiff (though, ultimately, punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff). Punitive damages are defendant-focused and are awarded as a means of discouraging bad behavior and punishing the defendant. Pursuant to Georgia law, punitive damages will only be awarded when the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, oppression, wantonness, or want of care that demonstrates a conscious indifference to the consequences.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded, though when they are, the damage amounts are often so substantial that the cases become the subject of media sensationalizing. In Georgia, there are no limitations on punitive damages in cases where the defendant acted with specific intent to cause harm or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. So, for example, if the court awards punitive damages in a drunk driving accident, the punitive damages will not be limited. For all other car accidents, punitive damage awards will be limited to a maximum of $250,000 (in addition to the compensatory damages).
If you have questions or concerns about the specifics of your case, and you want to know more about your legal rights and options, contact our office today for assistance.