Proposed Georgia Tort Reforms Aim to Reduce Personal Injury Awards

In the wake of recommendations from legislators in the Georgia State Senate at the end of 2019, it may become more difficult for accident victims to recover sizeable compensation awards from personal injury lawsuits. The Senate Study Committee on Reducing Georgia’s Cost of Doing Business made clear its goal of protecting the financial interests of businesses, insurance companies and negligent parties — potentially at the cost of everyday people who suffer serious injuries. Proposed “business-friendly” restrictions would be particularly relevant to civil lawsuits that involve injury caused by medical malpractice, defective products, poorly maintained property or negligent acts like distracted driving.

Some of the most striking suggestions from the committee’s report are:

  • Punitive damage caps — A defendant in a personal injury lawsuit can be ordered to pay punitive damages, in addition to actual damages, as punishment for reprehensible conduct. At present, a Georgia jury can award any amount of punitive damages if a lawsuit involves products liability, intentional harm, or a defendant who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A proposed $250,000 cap would limit the amount of punitive damages a jury could award.
  • Banning phantom damages — This proposal would allow an injured person to recover compensation for only the actual amount of money paid to medical providers for treatment. This amount may be significantly less than what appears on medical bills, because insurance companies often negotiate lower prices and pay less than they are initially charged.
  • Preventing attorneys from suggesting appropriate damages — New legislation would prohibit an injured person’s attorney from referencing a specific amount of compensation that could be appropriate for the victim’s pain and suffering.
  • Repealing Georgia’s Seat Belt Statute — Georgia’s Seat Belt Statute prevents insurance companies and courts from considering seat-belt usage when determining fault for a motor vehicle accident. A change to this law could result in a victim receiving a larger portion of the blame for an accident simply because he failed to wear a seat belt.
  • Protecting truck insurers from lawsuits — The committee suggested a law that would prevent trucking accident victims from taking direct action against the negligent party’s insurance company.

Recommendations laid out in the committee’s report will have serious repercussions if enacted. With lawmakers aiming to protect the interests of negligent parties over the well-being of accident victims, it is essential to have a strong and informed  Georgia personal injury attorney in your corner.

The lawyers at Jason & Bradley, LLC in Stone Mountain, Georgia have represented personal injury plaintiffs in the Atlanta area and throughout Georgia since 1989. To schedule your free initial consultation, call (404) 297-9933 or contact us online.