Punitive Damages in Florida DUI Accident Claims

Despite decades of public safety campaigns on the dangers of drunk driving, statistics indicate that DUI accidents remain a significant problem. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (FLHSMV) reports almost 5,000 crashes involving an impaired driver every year. More than 350 people are killed in these incidents, and another 2,885 suffer injuries in DUI collisions, leading to significant losses for victims and their entire families. 

Drunk driving is a crime, and it is charged as a felony in Florida when a person is killed or injured in a DUI accident. If you were hurt or lost a loved one, you may qualify for a special type of damages because of the at-fault party’s outrageously dangerous conduct. Punitive damages may be available in your case, which would increase the amount you can recover if you are eligible. You should discuss details with a Miami DUI accident attorney, but some basics about punitive damages can be informative.

How Punitive Damages Work

Monetary damages in auto crash claims are intended to reimburse the victim for the losses they suffer because of being injured. Economic damages, such as medical costs and lost wages, are measured in dollar value. Noneconomic damages include amounts to compensate you for pain and suffering. 

Punitive damages are different because they do not focus on the victim’s losses. The point is to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in the same risky conduct. In Florida, a victim may recover punitive damages as the greater of:

  • Three times the amount of economic and noneconomic damages; OR,
  • An amount equal to $500,000.

Proving Punitive Damages

This type of damages does not depend upon the fact that DUI is a crime. Instead, you must prove one of two facts:

  • The at-fault driver engaged in intentional conduct by getting behind the wheel while drunk; or,
  • The drunk motorist was grossly negligent, i.e., so reckless that the conduct exhibits indifference and disregard for the safety of others.

You can see how a drunk driver could be liable under either of these factors. Florida courts have found that deliberately operating a vehicle while impaired does meet the standard in many cases.

Punitive Damages and Insurance Companies

In a traffic collision, damages are typically paid to the victim by the at-fault motorist’s insurer. However, punitive damages are not covered by auto insurance policies. As a result, you may need to get payment from the driver individually. That person would pay out of their own pocket, but you can also lien some types of real estate or investments to enforce a judgment.  

A Miami DUI Accident Lawyer Will Pursue All Available Damages 

If you were involved in a drunk driving crash, you can trust our team at Gerson & Schwartz, PA, to seek punitive damages in an appropriate case. For more information, please call us at (305) 371-6000 or check out our website. We are happy to set up a complimentary case assessment at our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach.

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