Anytime someone is injured in an accident resulting from someone else’s negligent actions, Florida law gives you the right to seek compensation for the damages caused to you. Also called compensatory damages, these are not intended as a punishment for the defendant. Instead, they are an avenue for reimbursing victims for suffered losses due to their injuries. This would include medical bills, property damage, and even wrongful death claims.
State statutes also allow for an additional form of compensation that addresses egregious misconduct that exceeds normal acts of negligence. Punitive damages are intended as a form of civil punishment, and consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is advised when trying to determine if your case justifies such an award.
How Does Florida Law Define Punitive Damages?
Under state law, punitive damages are described as punishment to those who cause others harm through gross acts of reckless or negligent behavior. This form of compensation serves two ultimate purposes:
- Provide some form of monetary punishment to the defendant, and,
- Act as a societal deterrent to discourage others from engaging in similarly egregious behavior.
It’s important to understand that this form of civil damages is rarely handed out and requires a significant amount of evidence showing the defendant was acting out of malice, fraud, or other dangerous intent.
When are Punitive Damages Justified in a Personal Injury Suit?
As mentioned in the previous section, a specific level of negligence must be reached to justify awarding punitive damages in a personal injury suit. Under Florida Statutes, the defendant must be guilty of the following for a court to consider ordering punitive damages to a victim:
- Intentional Misconduct – Where the defendant was aware their actions were wrong and would likely cause harm, but committed the act anyway, or,
- Gross Negligence – The defendant’s actions were so reckless and egregious that their actions constitute an intentional disregard for the life and safety of others around them.
How Much Could I Be Awarded in Punitive Damages?
When a defendant’s actions rise to the level of gross negligence or willful misconduct, Florida law will calculate an award of punitive damages using one of the formulas below:
- Up to three times the amount of damages you are awarded, or,
- $500,000 (the statutory cap for punitive damages)
Some exceptions would allow you to recover four times your awarded compensation in punitive damages, though there is a maximum limit of $2 million:
- The defendant committed their negligence for financial gain, or,
- Their egregious actions and risk of causing injury was known to others
How Do I Prove That My Personal Injury Suit Deserves Punitive Damages?
Like any other personal injury compensation demand, you will need to provide clear evidence of the defendant’s misconduct exceeding the usual standard for negligence. But, again, working with a skilled personal injury attorney will prove especially helpful when building a solid case of evidence to justify a punitive damages award.
While the circumstances of your injury will provide the greatest amount of evidence regarding their intentional efforts to cause harm, the following will bolster your request:
- Police reports
- Eyewitness testimony
- Toxicology reports
- Expert witness testimonies and opinions
- Any statements made by the defendant, including on their social media accounts
- Footage caught by surveillance cameras and police dashcams of the incident
Consult with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
While not all personal injury cases will qualify for punitive damages, speak with an attorney first about the circumstances of your case. If the negligent party was especially malicious in their negligence, it might be worth pursuing.
At Jordan Law, we go the extra mile in determining the motives for someone purposely committing acts of reckless behavior that they know will cause harm to others. If your case rises to the level required to ask for additional compensation, we will do so without a second thought. You deserve justice for the pain and suffering you’ve endured. Trust us to always put your best interests and well-being first in everything we do on your behalf. You never have to worry about the status of your case or be left with unanswered questions. We are always available to speak with you about your concerns. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about what rights you have to compensation.