Can you recovery punitive damages in a Georgia personal injury claim if a negligent driver is texting? Currently texting and driving is certainly evidence of negligence, but there is not a Georgia case yet that allows it to be the basis for punitive damages. The argument that texting should allow punitive damages would be based on the fact that texting while driving is against the law and is known to be as dangerous as drunk driving in many studies. This means that someone who is texting while driving is making the decision to drive in a dangerous manner knowing that it places other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at an increase risk of serious injury or death just like a drunk driver does. It could be argued that distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving so it needs to be discouraged or deterred just like drunk driving. A good deterrent would be to allow Georgia personal injury claimants to recover for punitive damages when the negligent driver is knowingly choosing to text and drive. Attorney Richard Griffin believes that in time Georgia law will evolve to the point where texting and driving is the basis for punitive damages in personal injury cases in Georgia.
When does Georgia law allow for punitive damages in personal injury cases? Normally punitive damages are allowed for DUI (drunk driving) and for hit and run primarily.
O.C.G.A. Section 51-12-5.1 is the basis for punitive damages claims in Georgia. A summary and explanation of this statutes as it applies to auto accident claims is provided below:
(a) Punitive damages are extra damages in addition to payment of the actual damages. In an auto accident you can recover for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are additional damages allowed when the defendant is guilty of more than negligence. The defendant must also be guilty of “aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a defendant.”
(b) Punitive damages may be awarded only in personal injury lawsuits when the defendant’s actions show a “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences”. The most common examples are DUI, hit and run, racing, and reckless driving.
(c) Punitive damages shall be awarded to compensate the plaintiff and to deter or discourage the defendant from repeating the bad conduct in the future. Punitive damages against a negligent driver in a personal injury case are usually not allowed if the defendant dies since there is no need to deter future bad conduct of the defendant.
How can good personal injury attorneys use texting while driving to increase the personal injury verdicts and settlements? Good personal injury attorneys can use texting and driving and other similar distracted driving to show a jury that negligence is clear and damages need to be paid. Even when punitive damages are not allowed, jury verdicts are higher for future medical treatment, future pain and suffering, and future lost income when a jury is angry with the defendant and can focus on trying to make the personal injury claimant whole again. To be whole the jury is told that they can award the money damages they feel required to compensate the plaintiff for his or her damages. Anyone with a personal injury claim from a auto accident, slip and fall, on the job accident, or dog bite should hire a good personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible to help you with the following:
- Property damage claims;
- Rental car provisions;
- Diminished value claims;
- Assistance in getting needed medical treatment;
- Personal injury settlements and verdicts
Attorney Richard Griffin and his PAIN LAW attorneys provides free consultations to anyone who has a personal injury claim. For your free consultation call 877-PAIN-LAW (877-724-6529).