Pursuing Punitive Damages After an Accident? Here’s What You Need to Know

Almost all personal injury lawsuits result in claims for compensatory damages. In more extreme cases, punitive damages, also referred to as exemplary damages, may be pursued. In Florida, the apportionment of punitive damages is not a straightforward process. It involves a hearing before a trial court to determine whether there is substantial evidence to file a claim for punitive damages, where plaintiffs are responsible for presenting persuasive evidence that warrants the allocation of such alleged damages. In addition, the amount of punitive damages is immeasurable—it relies solely on specific circumstances and varies on a case-by-case basis.

If you’re curious whether you’re eligible for punitive damage, you’ll first need to understand what they are and how they’re awarded. The following information explores how punitive damages are recognized in Florida.

How Are Punitive Damages Different from Compensatory Damages?

Accident victims injured through no fault of their own typically seek what’s known as compensatory damages, which constitute both economic and non-economic losses, such as medical bills, rehabilitation, lost income, and pain and suffering. These types of cases are heard in civil court with the purpose of making plaintiffs “whole again” and obtaining justice after being wronged.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are focused more on the defendant’s actions rather than the plaintiffs. They’re designed to penalize grievous misconduct and aimed toward preventing such misconduct from occurring to someone else. Technically, the point of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff. Still, they do receive a monetary award.

How Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Florida?

In personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove all elements of negligence to establish the defendant’s wrongdoing and secure compensatory damages. Punitive damage claims are more stringent in regard to proving the extent of the defendant’s negligence. Under Florida law, for plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages, they must show that the defendant’s actions were unlawful, malicious, intentionally harmful, or committed with extreme reckless disregard for the wellbeing of others.

In short, plaintiffs have the burden of proving one of two elements: intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Intentional misconduct means that the defendant knew their conduct lacked the level of reasonable care required to prevent injury. It’s slightly different from gross negligence—the violent and careless misconduct that shows indifference to the rights of others—in the sense that it focuses more on the harm brought to the plaintiff than on the extent of the defendant’s deflection from reasonable care.

Does Florida Have a Cap on Punitive Damages?

While some states have no caps on punitive damages, Florida does. Florida Statute 768.73 imposes that punitive damage may not surpass up to three times the value of compensatory damages or $500,000 (whichever amount is greater).

In special cases, if the defendant’s deliberate misconduct was intended for financial gain, then they may be awarded up to four times the value of compensatory damages or $2 million (whichever amount is greater).

Sue for Punitive Damages with the Umansky Law Firm on Your Side

Do you believe your accident is worthy of punitive damages? Get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney at the Umansky Law Firm in Orlando, Florida. Although punitive damages are rarely awarded, it’s not impossible when you work with a successful firm. After an accident, dial (407) 228-3838 to reach the Umansky Law firm. It’s our number one priority to ensure you’re compensated fairly, and we’ll determine if punitive damages may be attainable after thoroughly reviewing your case.

Here at the Umansky Law Firm, we’ve helped countless accident victims in Florida achieve favorable results, both in and outside of the courtroom. We embrace transparency, honesty, and trust. Together, we’ll help put the pieces of your life back together. Give us a call at (407) 228-3838 or complete a contact form to request a free consultation today.