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DOJ Report on Punitive Damages Awards in 2005

In any trial involving intentional misconduct or in which a defendant has consciously disregarded the consequences of his or her conduct, Atlanta personal injury lawyers will ask juries to award compensatory damages and punitive damages to the plaintiff.Cases involving punitive damages include drunk driving car accidents, construction accidents in which the worker was using drugs, trucking accidents in which the truck company negligently hired or retained a clearly unqualified driver, dog bite cases in which the dog has repeatedly bitten other persons, or other injury cases in which the defendant’s conduct is more than just negligent. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, we thoroughly investigate all cases to determine if the case is appropriate for an award of punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are meant to do just that-compensate the plaintiff for all his economic and non-economic losses as a result of the defendant’s negligence.These losses could include medical expenses (hospitalization, medical bills, doctor fees, surgeries, physical therapy and rehabilitation), plus income and lost potential income in the future.Non-economic losses could include the plaintiff’s physical pain and mental suffering and loss of consortium/affection.However, punitive damages are awarded not to compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant and to deter him from committing such conduct in the future.

A new report by the US Department of Justice Office of Justice titled Punitive Damage Awards in State Courts 2005 provides an interesting summary of punitive damages awards that year. In the year 2005, there were 22 tort and contract trials in Fulton County, Georgia, which resulted in plaintiff victories.Out of these, 9% resulted in punitive damages being awarded to the plaintiff.Across the country, that same year, punitive damages were awarded in 14,359 trials that ended with plaintiff victories.

According to the report, out of more than 25,000 tort and contract trials in 2005, roughly 12% involved plaintiffs seeking punitive damages.Out of these, 30% of the cases ended with punitive damages awards.The average award was $64,000, and 13% of these trials ended with punitive damages in excess of $1 million.

In 2005, there were 16,057 tort trials, and out of these, plaintiffs sought punitive damages in 10% of the trials.An overwhelming majority of tort trials in 2005 involved medical malpractice, auto accidents and defective products.In these cases, plaintiffs requested punitive damages in about 7% of the cases.In less frequent tort trials like slander or libel, plaintiff asked for punitive damages in about 30% of the cases.