Understanding Punitive Damages and How They Apply in Florida Personal Injury Cases

DSC04655-2In most personal injury cases such as car accident injuries, truck accident injuries, and motorcycle accident injuries, the damages that are pursued by your Miami personal injury lawyer include restitution for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, there is another category of damages that goes beyond simply serving as a compensatory mechanism for the injured party. There is a special category of damages available that helps to make the injured party “whole” again and may be awarded to punish the at-fault party for their reckless and wanton conduct. This category of damages is known as punitive damages.

In Florida, punitive damages are also referred to as “exemplary damages.” As mentioned, these damages go beyond what is actually necessary to compensate you. They are meant to penalize the at-fault party if they committed gross negligence or caused intentional harm. They are awarded as a way to send a signal to the community at large that similar behavior will not be tolerated.

Punitive Damages Example

Punitive damages can be awarded when a drunk driver with a BAC of .18 hits and seriously injures a pedestrian causing him or her to suffer multiple broken bones and torn muscles. The injured pedestrian has $100,000 in medical bills and misses two months of work with lost wages totaling $10,000. In this scenario, a Miami car accident injury lawyer could seek punitive damages that go above and beyond the $110,000 in documented “compensatory damages” of medical bills and lost wages.

Florida Law on Punitive Damages

According to Florida statute 786.72, an injured party may be awarded punitive damages if they have clear and convincing evidence that the at-fault party possessed “actual knowledge” of the wrongfulness of their conduct and the high probability of causing serious harm, or that the at-fault party’s conduct was so reckless or wanton that it constituted a conscious disregard of indifference to life or safety. As you can see, the threshold that must be met to get a punitive damages award is fairly high.

Punitive Damages Capped in Florida

Florida places a cap on the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded in a personal injury, wrongful death, or other civil claim. Punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000 at most. So, for our example above, the highest amount of punitive damages that could be awarded, with $110,000 in compensatory damages, would be $330,000.

If the conduct of the at-fault party is especially egregious, the court has the discretion to award four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or a max of two million dollars.

Contact a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Whether you or a loved one is seriously hurt in car accident, truck accident, or boating accident, you need to consult with an experienced Miami personal injury attorney. Do not take on the at-fault party alone. Contact Gerson & Schwartz, PA for a free, confidential consultation.

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