Punitive Damages

After most car wrecks, you should be able to collect compensation from the at-fault driver, either through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. This compensation typically covers the cost of your medical bills, property damage and expenses like lost wages. However, in some special circumstances, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well. This kind of judgement, which is punishment for the defendant, could result in a much larger settlement after a crash.

Car Crash Attorney Explains Your Rights

The legal aspects of punitive damages can be confusing, so you should always consult a car crash attorney before you file any sort of claim. At the McArthur Law Firm, our lawyers have over 200 years of combined experience representing successful car accident claims for clients across Georgia. In one case, our legal team assisted in a truck crash case that resulted in a verdict of $23.2 million, including $5 million in punitive damages.


In a personal injury lawsuit, you may seek compensation for the damage caused by the negligence of another. This money is meant to make up for the losses you suffer, as much as possible. In general, the two types of damages are:

  • Compensatory damages. This includes economic and non-economic compensation. Economic damages cover all actual costs, such as medical bills, property damage and lost wages. Non-economic costs are more difficult to calculate, and include thigs like pain and suffering as well as emotional distress and loss of companionship.
  • Punitive damages. These damages are not meant as compensation for the victim. Instead, courts award this money to victims to punish the person responsible for an accident. Punitive damages are awarded in civil suits completely separate from any criminal proceedings. However, in some cases, such as a drunk driving accident, the person responsible may also face criminal charges.

Each state has specific laws that limit when you may ask for punitive damages in your personal injury lawsuit. In Georgia, these restrictions are extensive, so you should always consult with a car crash attorney to find out if you can include these extra damages in your case.


You may seek punitive damages after a car crash only in very special circumstances. In general, you may only seek these damages in cases where you can prove definitively that the person responsible was dangerously and willfully reckless. This means that in cases where someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, you likely cannot collect punitive damages. In terms of car accident claims, speeding is generally considered negligent rather than criminally reckless (although there are some exceptions). Therefore, you probably cannot get punitive damages for a crash cause by a speeding driver.

On the other hand, if a drunk driver hits you in Georgia, you can probably request punitive damages. Driving while intoxicated is illegal, so anyone who gets behind the wheel while drunk is willfully breaking the law and behaving recklessly. This is more than just negligence, so you can usually seek punitive damages from a drunk driver.

There are other circumstances that may justify including punitive damages. However, it depends greatly on the details of the wreck, the at-fault driver’s history and more. For example, though Georgia does have laws against texting while driving, you may not be able to collect punitive damages after a distracted driving accident unless you can prove additional recklessness. An experienced car wreck lawyer from our law firm can determine whether your case warrants punitive damages. If so, we can represent your personal injury lawsuit.


If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit for your car crash injuries, our attorneys can answer your questions. We can explain your legal options and tell you whether you are likely to receive punitive damages. Either way, we can represent you and argue your case in front of a jury, if necessary. Contact our firm online or call 404-565-1621 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

More Car Accident Resources

If you’d like to learn more about how McArthur Law Firm handles car accident cases, read our informative articles on the subject below. We explain all the different types of car wreck cases we represent.