The term "punitive damages" is synonymous with the terms "vindictive damages," "exemplary damages," and other descriptions of additional damages awarded because of aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a defendant.
Punitive Damages may be awarded only in such lawsuits in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.
Punitive damages are not awarded as compensation to the injured but to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant from future bad behavior.
Punitive damages not automatically excluded by insurance policy.
Although some insurance companies are now adding provisions to specifically exclude coverage for punitive damages – most insurance policies do still cover punitive damages.
$250,000 Cap on punitive damages.
In Georgia there is a $250,000.00 cap placed on punitive damages. However, that cap is excluded in certain instances such as:
1. In cases of product liability. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(e)
2. Where the defendant acted with the specific intent to harm the plaintiff. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f)
3. Where a defendant was impaired by alcohol and/or drugs (not legally prescribed), or intentionally ingested, consumed, injected, or smoked glue, aerosol or other toxic vapor to the extent that his/her judgment was substantially impaired.