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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Personal Injury > Are There Limits on Compensation in Georgia Personal Injury Cases?

Are There Limits on Compensation in Georgia Personal Injury Cases?


In personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff’s goal is to obtain damages from the defendant. In this context, damages equal money. Since personal injury claims are civil in nature, the defendant will not go to jail or face any loss of their liberty. But the court can order a defendant to pay financial compensation to the plaintiff as damages for a wrongful act.

In recent years, many states have tried to limit or “cap” some types of damages in personal injury cases. Georgia has a few such caps. But they are not as extensive as you might think.

No Caps on Economic Damages

First, let’s clarify a critical point: Georgia does not cap economic damages in any personal injury case. Economic damages are, put simply, your out-of-pocket losses attributable to the defendant’s actions. The most common types of economic damages are medical bills and lost income. Under Georgia law, you are always allowed to seek the full measure of your economic damages. The only limit is your actual expenses or losses.

But economic damages are just one part of a plaintiff’s overall compensatory damages. There are also non-economic damages. This refers to compensation for losses that do not carry a bill or that otherwise be proven through financial records. We often use terms like “pain and suffering” to describe non-economic damages.

Historically, juries in Georgia were free to award non-economic damages as they saw fit. But in 2005, the General Assembly passed a law capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. This cap was just $350,000. Five years later, however, the Georgia Supreme Court held this cap was unconstitutional, as it violated a plaintiff’s right to trial by jury. So this particular cap is no longer enforceable.

That said, Georgia law does grant a trial judge the authority to set aside an “excessive” award of non-economic damages that is “inconsistent” with the evidence presented in the case. (Similarly, a judge can find an award of damages “inadequate.”) In this circumstance, the judge can either order a new trial on the issue of damages, or demand the plaintiff accept a lower amount of non-economic damages to avoid a retrial.

Important Restrictions on Punitive Damages in Georgia

There is one other type of damage award to consider, and that is punitive damages. Punitive damages are not meant to serve as compensation like economic or non-economic damages. Instead, punitive damages are a form of civil punishment meant to serve as a deterrent, both for the defendant and anyone else who might consider engaging in similar conduct.

Georgia law presently caps punitive damages at $250,000 in most personal injury cases. This cap does not apply to product liability cases, i.e., personal injury caused by a manufacturer’s dangerous or defective product. And a Georgia court can waive the punitive damages cap if the defendant intentionally caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

It is also important to note that with any award of punitive damages in Georgia, the plaintiff is only entitled to 25 percent of the actual award. The remaining 75 percent must be paid over to the state treasury.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

If you have been harmed through someone else’s reckless, negligent, or intentional conduct, it is important to consult with a qualified Alpharetta personal injury lawyer who can advise you on damages and other legal issues related to your case. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.

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