Most personal injury accidents happen because someone was careless, and though the conduct may not have been intentional, Florida law still allows victims to recover damages. You may qualify to receive amounts for medical costs, pain and suffering, and emotional distress as compensation for your losses. However, there are instances where the wrongdoer’s actions go beyond mere carelessness. The person or entity crossed the line into reckless, wanton, and potentially even criminal conduct. In such a case, a victim may have grounds to seek additional amounts under the Florida punitive damages statute.
As the term suggests, this class of damages aims to punish the at-fault party for misconduct. Because punitive damages can significantly increase the amount a victim can recover, the bar is quite high for obtaining these damages. A Miami personal injury attorney can explain how they work and whether pursuing punitive damages is appropriate in your case. Plus, a summary is useful as background.
Application of Florida’s Statute on Punitive Damages
Under the statute, a victim can obtain punitive damages if the judge or jury finds the wrongdoer guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. To expand upon this point:
- Intentional misconduct refers to incidents where the defendant had actual knowledge that the act was wrong, and there was a high probability that harm to the victim would occur. Despite this knowledge, the wrongdoer still made a conscious decision to engage in wrongful conduct.
- Gross negligence is defined as acts that are so reckless or lacking in care that they represent a conscious disregard for the life, safety, or rights of others.
Calculating Punitive Damages
In addition to punishing the defendant, another goal of punitive damages is to discourage others from engaging in intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Lawmakers accomplish this goal by establishing an extremely high cap on punitive damages. A victim may be entitled to the greater of:
- A maximum of three times the amount of compensatory damages, which means the total of your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and related losses; OR,
- An award of $500,000.
Examples Where Punitive Damages are Justified
To better understand this category of damages, you can review some scenarios where punitive damages might be allowed:
- A traffic accident caused by a drunk driver whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds .15 percent;
- A property owner is not merely allowing criminal activity on the premises but is actually running a drug or prostitution ring out of the business; or,
- The manufacturer of a defective product knows the flaw could lead to harm, but the company does not warn consumers because of the hit to profits.
Learn More by Consulting With a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer
When punitive damages are an option, you can count on Gerson & Schwartz, PA, to pursue the at-fault party to obtain these additional amounts. For additional details, please call (305) 371-6000 or visit us online to speak to a Florida personal injury attorney. We can schedule a free consultation at our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, FL.