You may have heard about accident victims receiving large amounts of money as “punitive damages.” If you have been injured in an accident, and the other driver was reckless or breaking the law, you may be entitled to this money. However, you may not be awarded any of it unless you fight for it. You need a good lawyer.
We can connect you with a qualified attorney for free. Our attorneys will give you FREE phone consultation to discuss your case and tell you if you have a claim. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your free consultation today.
What are punitive damages?
Most of the costs and damages paid to accident victims are “compensatory damages.” They compensate you for things like medical bills, lost pay, damage to your vehicle, and even long-term disabilities or the loss of a loved one’s life. The goal of compensatory damages is to do as much as possible to make up for the financial effects of an accident. You are potentially entitled to these damages in any accident that was not your fault.
Punitive damages have a different purpose. They are designed to punish the person or company who was at fault. The law doesn’t use punitive damages to punish everyone who causes an accident—they are only available if a person’s behavior was extremely careless, reckless, or showed that they didn’t care about consequences. That means the person at fault must have had more than a lapse of judgment or a momentary distraction like talking on a cell phone.
Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. This means that your case may be worth a great deal more if it qualifies for punitive damages.
When are punitive damages available?
To make a successful claim for punitive damages, the person at fault must have been especially careless, reckless, or breaking a criminal law. Some of the most common reasons that punitive damages are awarded in an Atlanta Georgia car accident lawsuit include:
- Drunk driving. If the driver who caused your accident was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, you may be eligible for punitive damages. Driving under the influence is illegal, and Georgia courts award punitive damages in DUI cases to send a message that drunk driving will not be tolerated.
- Drag racing. Drag racing is an example of reckless behavior that ignores possible devastating consequences.
- Road rage. In a road rage incident, an angry driver intentionally rams another car or makes dangerous and overly aggressive maneuvers. Punitive damages discourage drivers from injuring others on purpose.
- Hit and run. It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident, and a hit and run victim may be eligible for punitive damages.
How much money can I get in a punitive damages claim?
There are two parts to any claim involving punitive damages. The first part is your compensatory damages, and the amount you receive will depend on the circumstances of your accident and how serious your injuries are.
If you are also eligible for punitive damages, those will be calculated differently. The amount you receive in punitive damages has nothing to do with the cost of your injuries. Instead, punitive damages are an amount that is large enough to truly punish the person who caused your injuries. The amount can vary greatly, but the maximum amount you can recover in punitive damages in most cases in Georgia is $250,000.
Will the other driver’s insurance pay for punitive damages?
It depends on the wording of the insurance policy. If the other driver’s policy doesn’t specifically exclude punitive damages, then the insurance company may be required to pay them. A lawyer can evaluate whether there is insurance coverage for punitive damages, and if necessary can pursue other avenues for recovering punitive damages if you are entitled to them:
- By getting a court order requiring the other driver to pay the punitive damages out of his or her own pocket
- By placing a lien on the other driver’s property until you are paid
- By initiating collection actions such as taking a portion of the person’s paycheck until your damages are paid
The insurance company already offered me money. How can a lawyer help?
Insurance companies like to settle claims as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible. That keeps their profits high, even if you don’t end up with a fair settlement. It’s almost certain that the offer you got from the insurance company didn’t take punitive damages into account. If you take this money, you may be giving up the right to tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in punitive damages. Always talk to a lawyer before you take money or sign any paperwork from an insurance company.
Punitive damage claims can be hard to prove. You must have evidence of the other driver’s bad behavior, whether that’s driving under the influence or something else. A good accident lawyer will start an investigation right away, collecting hard evidence about the cause of your accident and the other driver’s behavior. A lawyer can use this to get an insurance company to pay or to convince a jury in an Atlanta Georgia car accident lawsuit. Insurance companies have teams of lawyers who don’t want to pay punitive damages. A lawyer of your own levels the playing field, increasing the chance you will get ALL the money you are legally entitled to.
Talk to an Atlanta Punitive Damages Accident Lawyer for Free
Our lawyers have been helping accident victims recover punitive damages for years. You won’t have to pay us unless we win money for you. Call us for a FREE, no obligation consultation to discuss your case and tell you if you have a valid claim. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your free consultation today.