As the name suggests, punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant to force that defendant to change their behavior. But not everyone can ask for punitive damages. In fact, the requirements for eligibility are strict.
Florida law allows punitive damages against a defendant only when they are guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. In addition, unlike damages for simple negligence, you can bring a punitive damage claim after you show the Court the a basis for those damages.
Understanding when punitive damages can be awarded is important for anyone involved in a personal injury case. So, we broke down in this short guide below about how punitive damages work in Florida and who is eligible.
If you suffer injuries or losses due to the negligence or negligent act of others, you are entitled to seek compensation. In Florida, a simple negligence claim allows to basic categories of damages, economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are used to financially compensate you for the direct losses you suffered due to the accident. These include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and more.
Non-economic damages compensate you for less concrete loses like physical pain and suffering, emotional and psychological damage, loss of quality of life, and more.
When your injuries or losses were caused by intentional misconduct or gross negligence, you can bring a third category of damages, punitive damages.
Unlike the above, which compensate, punitive damages are intended to punish the individual or entity responsible.
Florida Punitive Damages Statute
According to Florida statute on punitive damages, “a defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.”
What this means is the law sets the bar high to clear. A jury is allowed to award punitive damages only under exceptional circumstances. The onus is on the claimant to not only ask for these damages, but to prove them. “Clear and convincing” is a higher standard of evidence than normal simple negligence proof standard. This means that a punitive damages claim must be supported by strong evidence. Punitive damages aren’t awarded very often. There are only two situations where punitive damages are appropriate, when the defendant’s actions are intentional and when their actions are grossly negligent.
This is when the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.
Intentional conduct typically involves claims for things like assault, battery and murder, when the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.
Limits on Punitive Damages
Florida law can limit punitive damages depending on the amount of actual damages sustained, and there might be limits to the amount of damages based on the financial resources of the defendant.
At Weinstein & Cohen, we have more than 50 years of combined experience fighting for accident victim’s rights. Our experienced Miami and Naples accident attorneys at Weinstein & Cohen will put your priorities first. If you or someone you care about has been injured or involved in an accident across South Florida or Southwest Florida, contact the Miami and Naples personal injury lawyers at Weinstein & Cohen at 305-374-1011 or 239-793-3331, or visit fairnessforall.com for an absolutely free legal consultation to learn more about your options.