Published On: Mon, Oct 19th, 2020

What Are Punitive Damages in Florida Personal Injury Cases?

When you suffer an injury from an accident that was out of someone else’s negligence, you can receive a settlement for either compensatory or punitive damages. 

Compensatory damages reimburse the losses you have incurred due to the accident. They are further categorized into non-economic and economic damages. The latter includes medical bills, therapy fees, lost wages, property damage, and loss of the ability to earn a living. 

Non-economic damages comprise pain, suffering, emotional distress, and lowered quality of life. Compensatory damages ensure that you return to your prior financial state.

The amount of compensation awarded for these damages depends on the magnitude of negligence or percentage fault assigned to the defendant. 

photo/Claim Accident Services

Punitive Damages in Florida Personal Injury Cases

In special cases, the presiding judge may choose to award a claimant punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages. 

Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the judge deems the defendant’s negligence as punishable. They are meant to serve as a deterrent of similar actions in the future, while also sending a message to the public. 

It is important to note that these damages are rarely awarded and require a judge to approve the decision. In addition, government agencies are exempted from paying punitive damages.

Types of Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the judge rules that the defendant was either grossly negligent or conducted intentional misconduct.

Gross negligence refers to when a person’s careless actions indicate a conscious disregard for the safety, life, and rights of other people. Intentional misconduct, on the other hand, occurs when the defendant was aware that their wrong actions could cause an injury but intentionally chose to go ahead. 

An ideal example of intentional misconduct is battery, while drunk driving amounts to gross negligence. 

How Much Punitive Damages Can I Receive in Florida?

When a judge rules that your case is eligible for punitive damages, your personal injury lawyer will use either of the following formulas to determine a total reward.

Florida laws state that the limit amount of punitive damages should be either thrice the case’s compensatory amount or $500,000, whichever is higher.

However, if the defendant’s actions were driven by a financial gain or was known to their higher authorities, then punitive damages awarded can be four times the compensation or an amount that is up to $2 million. 

A common example of the second exception is when a large corporation knowingly distributes defective products in a bid to save on manufacturing costs.    

Common Types of Accidents that Warrant Punitive Damages

As stated, not every case warrants punitive damages. Cases resulting from slips and falls, accidents on business buildings, and cruise accidents rarely receive punitive damages.

If you feel like your case deserves punitive damages, consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to ascertain this and prove the same in front of a judge.  

Your attorney may use a police report, photographs, eyewitness statements, the accused’s social posts, video surveillance, and other sources of evidence to prove intentional misconduct or gross negligence on the defendant’s part.

Some of the most common types of accidents that include punitive damages are the following:

  • Stalking: The defendant targets and stalks a victim with an intent to cause harm that will result in injuries.
  • Product liability: A corporation knowingly distributes products that are known to cause harm. Such cases favor the claimant because they do not need to prove negligence. In lieu, the law holds manufacturers to strict liability standards.
  • Vehicular and truck accidents: Reckless behavior on the road such as intoxication, and road rage may warrant punitive damages in Florida. 

 Author: Annabelle E

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