Punitive Damages in Florida
Florida courts award two main types of damages in personal injury cases: compensatory damages and punitive damages. The former attempt to compensate injured parties for accident-related losses, such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The latter, on the other hand, are awarded in cases where a defendant exhibited a particularly severe degree of negligence or recklessness, and so are intended to punish the defendant accordingly.
Filing a lawsuit that asks for punitive damages often requires a different approach than a standard personal injury case, so if you or a loved one were seriously injured in an accident, in which someone else exhibited an egregious lack of care, it is important to speak with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your case and help determine whether a request for punitive damages is likely to be successful.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where a court wishes to punish a defendant or deter similar behavior in the future. For this reason, judges will generally only issue an award of punitive damages when there is evidence that a defendant:
- Engaged in intentional misconduct, which means that he or she had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of his or her conduct and the high likelihood that the claimant would sustain injury or damage as a result, but despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued the course of action; or
- Exhibited gross negligence, which means that his or her conduct was so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard for the life, rights, or safety of others.
Because there is such a high standard for punitive damages, they are typically only awarded on rare occasions, being reserved for cases where the court feels a need to send a message to the community or a particular industry as a deterrent.
Punitive Damage Caps
Punitive damages awards in Florida are usually proportionate to the amount of compensatory damages that a person receives. In fact, there are often limits to how much a person can collect in punitive damages. For instance, under state law, courts can only issue punitive damages awards totaling three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is higher. So, if a person were awarded $1 million in compensatory damages, he or she could not collect more than $3 million in additional punitive damages. There are, however, a few exceptions to these legal caps. If a defendant’s actions were intentional and committed for the purpose of financial gain, for instance, a punitive damages award could be as high as four times the amount of compensatory damages, or $2 million, whichever amount is higher.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Pursue Compensation for Your Injuries
Personal injury claims can be complicated, especially for those who are asking for punitive damages. To improve your own chances of receiving such an award in your own case, please contact the dedicated Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at Boone & Davis today. A member of our legal team can be reached at 954-566-9919 or via online message.