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Punitive Damages in Florida Personal Injury Cases

When a Floridian is injured in an accident caused by another’s negligence, that accident victim usually will be entitled to seek compensation for their injuries through a Florida negligence lawsuit. There are several different types of damages awards that may be appropriate in any given situation, depending on the type of conduct that led to the accident, the severity of the victim’s injuries, and the effect the injuries will have on the victim’s life moving forward.

The most common type of personal injury damages award is called economic damages. These damages are meant to compensate the victim for the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred as a result of being involved in the accident. For example, economic damages in Florida include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and decreased earning capacity.

Another type of damages award, which is also quite common, is non-economic damages. These awards are designed to help compensate for the less tangible but equally real injuries and losses they suffered as a result of the accident. For example, damages that seek to compensate an accident victim for their pain and suffering fall under this category.

A third type of damages award is called punitive damages. Unlike the other two types of damages discussed above, punitive damages are focused on the defendant and the defendant’s conduct that caused the victim’s injuries. These awards are used to deter, or discourage, the type of behavior that gave rise to the accident. Often, these award amounts are substantial. However, punitive damages are not permitted in every case. In fact, they are the exception, not the rule.

Punitive Damages in Florida

In Florida, punitive damages are only permitted when a plaintiff can show that the defendant acted with “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct.” This is a high threshold, and many claims for punitive damages will be denied. However, it is not impossible to obtain punitive damages in certain cases. An experienced attorney can help accident victims determine whether seeking punitive damages may be a good idea.

Court Sanctions Plaintiff for Seeking Punitive Damages without a Good-Faith Basis

Earlier this month, a state supreme court upheld a lower court’s decision to sanction a plaintiff for seeking punitive damages against a defendant. In the case, Smizer v. Drey, the plaintiff admitted to failing to yield to the defendant at a rural intersection. There was no evidence presented that the defendant was acting maliciously. Nor was she intoxicated. She simply failed to yield the right of way.

However, the plaintiff continued to seek punitive damages throughout the proceedings. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff was doing so in order to get the defendant to settle the case. In other words, the court determined that the plaintiff was using the threat of punitive damages to try and convince the defendant to settle the case. In response to this finding, the court sanctioned the plaintiff and required that she cover the defendant’s costs in defending against the punitive damages claim.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Florida car, truck, motorcycle, or other auto accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. A skilled attorney can help you with an honest assessment of your case, so you can know what to expect as your case moves forward. At Cecere Santana, we believe that unreal expectations lead to inevitable disappointment, so we make sure we are upfront with our clients from the beginning. When punitive damages are appropriate, we don’t hesitate to seek them. Call 800-753-5529 to set up a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Workplace Accidents: Workers’ Compensation or a Personal Injury Lawsuit?, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 7, 2015.

The Lasting Effects of Serious Auto Accident Injuries, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 7, 2016.

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