Punishing Bad Drivers
Punitive damages are awarded in Georgia not to compensate injured victims but to punish the Defendant for his or her own acts. Punitive damages must be specifically plead and shown by clear and convincing evidence. The clear and convincing standard is much higher than what is regularly required to obtain compensation for your medical bills, lost wages as well as pain and suffering.
Not all types of conduct authorize the award of punitive damages. As the victim, it is your burden to prove that the Defendant acted with “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences”. Luckily, numerous cases have been heard by judges and juries who have provided some situations where punitive damages are appropriate. A clear example would be in situations where the Defendant was driving while under the influence of alcohol; i.e. drunk driving. Everyone knows that it is dangerous to drive on the road after drinking alcohol. It is even more dangerous when you have consumed more alcohol than you can legally handle. The best evidence of showing punitive damages would be through the testimony of the police officer who would have administered sobriety tests as well a breathalyzer. Most of these arrests also are videotaped that truly showing the state of the Defendant.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Another situation which may give rise to punitive damages is driving under the influence of drugs, in particular, illegal substances. These are once again situations where law abiding citizens know that drugs impair ones ability to act normal showing an indifference to the consequences of your actions. Once again these types of cases turn on police officers investigating the scene as well as you attorney deposing and uncovering the background of the Defendant.
Hit & Run
Hit and runs are another circumstance in which punitive damages may apply. In fact, Georgia laws state that any person involved in an accident must remain at the scene until the police arrive. Fleeing the scene of the accident shows a complete disregard to the safety and well-being of fellow citizens. Hit and run cases are a little more difficult as Defendants may try and show a reason for leaving the scene. Most often they play innocent stating that they didn’t realize an accident occurred. Such cases turn on deposing a Defendant, getting color photos of the vehicles damages as well obtaining witness statements who can testify as to what truly occurred.
Purposeful Acts – Assault & Battery
Another clear example of punitive damages is when someone is purposefully trying to hurt you. This may involve instances of road rage where their only motive is to get back at you. Assault and battery cases can be quite tricky as you need to show that the Defendant was trying to hurt you and it wasn’t an inadvertent error.