Most people have heard of punitive damages, but most people wrongly assume they apply to every personal injury case. The truth of the matter is that punitive damages are awarded in only a small number of cases. Most of these involve driving under the influence, hit and run, driving under the influence of drugs, and a reckless disregard of human life.
Unlike other types of compensation in a personal injury lawsuit that are simply meant to pay back a victim what they are owed (medical bills, lost wages and more), punitive damages are meant to “punish” the at-fault party. Punitive damages are not tied into property damage or injury. They are not meant as compensation for a loss. Instead, they are meant as a way to deter the at-fault party for behaving in a similar manner in the future, and deter others from acting in the same way as well.
In most states across the country, punitive damages are reserved for cases that involve gross negligence. For example, a person is very aware of their state of intoxication but decides to get behind the wheel and drive. They cause an accident that results in severe injury to the other party. A judge may not only award compensatory damages to the victim, but also rule that the at-fault driver must pay punitive damages in addition.
If you have been involved in such an accident in Atlanta, a car accident attorney can assist you in determining the types of damages you may be entitled to and filing a lawsuit.