Attorneys' Fees and Court Costs
Compensatory damages are derived from the word "compensate," meaning "to make up for" or "to make whole". Generally, these damages can be broken up into two sub-categories - actual damages and general damages. Actual damages seek to reimburse a plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses incurred, or financial losses sustained. Actual damages typically include:
- Medical and hospitalization bills incurred to treat your injuries
- Wages lost due to work missed while you recuperate
- Costs of household or nursing help during recovery, including costs of wheelchair or crutches required
- Cost of rental car or substitute transportation
- Cost to replace or repair damaged property
As noted, injured victims can also sue for general damages in addition to actual damages. General damages include the things that can't be precisely documented in dollars spent, including:
- Pain and suffering endured due to injuries and any subsequent mental anguish
- Disfigurement resulting from injuries
- Value of medical expenses you are likely to incur in the future
- Value of wages you are likely to lose in the future
- Permanency of injury and resulting pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (benefits of a relationship)
- Loss of opportunity
Though mental anguish and emotional distress are often confused with pain and suffering, they are not the same. It can be quite normal for an accident victim to experience some sort of emotional distress in addition to physical pain. Fear, anxiety, shock, grief, mental suffering, shame and embarrassment are some of the symptoms of mental anguish that can normally result from a traumatic accident.
Example: Suppose a mother pushing her child's carriage down the sidewalk sees a car about to hit her and her child, but there is nothing she can do. The terror she experiences before the impact is considered mental anguish. States have put limits on who can sue for emotional distress and under what circumstances. The barriers are to prevent a possible proliferation of personal injury lawsuits based solely on mental anguish. In Georgia, the parent also needs to be physically injured in the same accident to sue for emotional distress resulting from watching her child get injured. Lee v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 272 Ga. 583, 533 S.E.2d 82 (2000). Another limit some states have imposed on emotional distress lawsuits is the "physical manifestation rule," used in cases where the plaintiff is not injured. For example, you are suing for emotional distress, among other things, in a libel suit. You'd have to show that the emotional distress resulted in "physical manifestations"--e.g., loss of weight depression, or ulcers. Georgia does not follow this rule, but instead follows the "impact rule." Under this rule, for a plaintiff to recover for emotional distress they must show that they have physical injuries resulting from the same accident as well. MacDonald v. U.S., 900 F. Supp. 483 (M.D. Ga. 1995); Ford v. Whipple, 225 Ga. App. 276, 483 S.E.2d 591 (Ct. App. 1997).
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In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases. Punitive damages are not based on actual injuries sustained. Rather, they are a way to punish the defendant for intentional conduct or gross negligence - behavior that is so egregious that a civil court penalty is warranted in order to deter the defendant from committing the same act again in the future. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Under Georgia law, the maximum punitive damages that can be awarded in a single case is $250,000. This law does not apply to product liability claims. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1 Attorneys' fees and court costs.
In addition to damages, a successful plaintiff is also able to recover court costs incurred. O.C.G.A. § 9-15-1. Court costs include the cost of filing fees, process server fees, deposition transcripts, court transcriptions and translators. Attorneys' fees are generally not included as part of a successful plaintiff's recovery, though there are limited circumstances where procedural rules allow for the successful plaintiff to recover attorney's fees and expert witness fees.
Nominal damages are minimal damage awards acknowledging that the plaintiff was legally wronged, while at the same time recognizing a lack of evidence establishing that the plaintiff suffered actual damages. Nominal damages are normally very small awards, and are allowed only in cases where actual injury is not required to be shown, such as with intentional torts.
Example: If you are pushed by someone in such a manner so as to be offensive, thus constituting the tort of battery, but you suffer no actual physical injury, you may be entitled to a minimal award of nominal damages.
In addition to damages, a successful plaintiff may possibly recover court costs incurred. Court costs include the cost of filing fees, process server fees, deposition transcripts, court transcriptions and translators. Attorneys' fees are generally not included as part of a successful plaintiff's recovery, though there are limited circumstances where procedural rules allow for the successful plaintiff to recover attorney's fees and expert witness fees.
These procedural rules require the understanding and skill of experienced personal injury attorneys. If you or a loved one is a victim of personal injuries, call Law Office of Donald P. Edwards now at 404-526-8866 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.