When you are injured in any type of accident that results from someone’s careless actions, you may be able to recover from the negligent party. These “compensatory” damages are intended as a sort of reimbursement to you for the losses you sustain as a result of your injuries, such as:
- Medical costs;
- Lost earnings from time off work;
- Property damage, if any;
- Pain and suffering; and,
- Other losses related to disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, diminished enjoyment of life, and related matters.
In Florida, there is another type of damages available if you were hurt due to misconduct that goes beyond mere negligence. An experienced personal injury lawyer can tell you whether punitive damages are a possibility in your case, but some general information may help you understand how this category of damages works.
What are Punitive Damages?
Florida statutory law provides that punitive damages may be awarded as a sort of punishment to a defendant who caused your injuries. The theory is that the person’s actions are so extreme that he or she should be penalized in addition to being required to compensate you for your losses. Punitive damages also serve the related societal goal of deterring others from engaging in outrageously dangerous behavior. When people are aware that this sort of punishment could apply to them, they are less likely to act recklessly.
When Does a Defendant’s Conduct Justify Punitive Damages?
Not just any actions rise to a level that would warrant punitive damages. Under the statute, the person must be guilty of:
- Intentional Misconduct: The individual knew the conduct was wrong and that injury was likely, but he or she intentionally acted anyway; or,
- Gross Negligence: The person was so reckless that the act amounts to a conscious disregard for the life, safety, or right of others in the surrounding area.
Based upon these definitions and the case law decided by courts, it takes seriously egregious conduct for a claimant to recover punitive damages.
How are Punitive Damages Calculated?
In a case where the defendant demonstrates gross negligence or intentional misconduct, Florida law allows punitive damages based upon two different formulas:
- The limit is three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the injured victim; OR,
- The statutory cap of $500,000.
However, a plaintiff may recover punitive damages in an amount four times his or her compensation or up to $2 million where:
- The defendant’s behavior was motivated by financial gain;
- The unreasonably dangerous conduct and likelihood of injury were known to the actor’s agents, directors, officers, and others.
Another scenario involving punitive damages applies when a defendant had a specific intent to harm a particular person, and actually did cause injuries. An example might be targeting, stalking, and eventually attacking a victim. In such a case, there is no cap on punitive damages.
Consult with an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today
Punitive damages may not be available in all personal injury cases, but you owe it to yourself to find out more about your rights if you were hurt by particularly offensive acts. Please contact Piccin & Glynn, Attorneys at Law to hear more about the possibility of seeking punitive damages in your case. You can reach our Ocala, FL office at 352-558-8480 to schedule a free initial consultation.