Everyone has seen the commercials from personal injury attorneys promising monetary compensation for damages. The state of Georgia has different categories of damages that injured parties are able to recover. In Georgia, an injured party can pursue a civil lawsuit against another individual, business or entity for compensatory damages, (which are more narrowly categorized as special and general damages), and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages, (i.e., general and special), are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries and damages sustained from the “at fault” party’s negligence. General damages are those which the law presumes to flow from any tortious or negligent act. The most common example of general damages are “pain and suffering”, and they may be recovered without proof of any amount. However, the law does require there to be a physical injury before a plaintiff can recover for pain and suffering. General damages can also include diminished capacity to work, labor, earned wages and loss of consortium. Unlike special damages claims which require evidence of the dollar amount of the damages in order to recover, general damages are determined by the “enlightened conscience of an impartial jury”. Essentially, this can be any amount the jury sees fit. Special damages are those which actually flow from the tortious or negligent act. Examples of special damages are medical expenses, lost income from an inability to work as a result of an injury and property damage. A good guide for determining if something falls under the category of special damages is anything that has a receipt attached to it such as:
- Medical bills
- Medical narratives illustrating a diminished capacity to work in the future or additional medical procedures that will need to be performed in the future, along with the cost off said procedures.
- Payroll receipts showing how much an individual would make during the time that they were away from their employment due to the injury
- Employment verification showing time missed from work, and
- Automobile repair estimates or receipts
Punitive damages are governed by O.C.G.A. §51-12-5.1 and serve the purpose of punishing the wrongdoer, not compensating the injured party. In order to recover punitive damages, the injured party must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that the wrongdoer’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences. An example of cases where punitive damages have been awarded include instances where a person has driven intoxicated or distracted and caused a serious accident. O.C.G.A. §51-12-5.1 limits punitive damages to $250,000.
When determining the amount of compensation you are going to demand from the “at fault” party it is critical to obtain all of the necessary documentation in order to support your claim. To the surprise of many injury plaintiffs, medical providers do not have a simple and streamlined process to obtain the necessary documentation to support your claim. This can be extremely frustrating, especially considering the fact that they expect to be paid for providing the service. In fact, it is not uncommon for an injured party to have to contact multiple offices across different states for the same provider in order to obtain all of the necessary records. This is why seeking the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney is critical to preserving your ability to recover in a timely manner. The Faucette Law Firm, LLC has represented injury clients with the highest degree of customer service for over 10 years in Fulton, Douglas, Cobb, Fayette, Carroll, Coweta, Henry, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Paulding and Clayton. Contact our law firm today for a consultation.