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What are punitive damages?

An experienced personal injury lawyer reveals what you should know

Some people act so terribly when causing an accident or personal injury to someone else that the courts want to make an example out of punishing them for their bad behavior.

One of the tools used to do this in civil court is the awarding of “punitive damages.”

Separate from economic damages that are tied to an actual financial loss, such as the cost of your medical treatment, lost wages, and property damage, punitive damages fall under the category of non-economic damages, meaning they aren’t meant to directly compensate the victim for a monetary loss as a result of the accident.

Attorney Armando Edmiston represents Florida clients in a variety of civil claims in which punitive damages could be sought, including but not limited to car accidents, product liability, truck accidents, and premises liability.

Sometimes known as “exemplary damages,” the goal of awarding punitive damages to a plaintiff is to dissuade the defendant and others from engaging in the same intentional or reckless action, or lack of action, in the future.

While punitive damages have the power to hinder future acts of gross negligence, they are rarely awarded. Only about 5% of verdicts include punitive damages for the victims.

How do you know if you qualify for punitive damages?

To pursue punitive damages, your attorney must first establish that the defendant knew what they were doing was unlawful and that it could likely cause injury to others.

For instance, if you were severely injured or a loved one died in a crash caused by a drunk driver, punitive damages may be included in any compensation you receive since anyone who drives drunk is choosing to do so, despite the known risks.

In the 1990s, the Florida Supreme Court established that for punitive damages to be awarded, it must be proven that the at-fault person’s actions were “fraudulent, malicious, deliberately violent or oppressive, or committed with such gross negligence as to indicate a wanton disregard for the rights of others.”

What is the average amount awarded for punitive damages?

Nationwide, the median punitive damage award is a little over $60,000, but a significant number of successful punitive damage claims win $1 million or more every year.

According to some studies, it appears that courts are becoming even less inclined to award punitive damages, with sharp declines in punitive awards for medical malpractice and product liability cases in recent years.

Keep in mind that every case is different and the amount of money you’re eligible to recover, including punitive damages, will depend on the specific details of your case. As such, the numbers provided above should not be used as an expectation for your specific claim.

Get a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of Florida law

Florida has a unique set of rules around how and when punitive damages can be awarded.

Under most circumstances, punitive damages cannot be greater than 3 times the amount of compensation for damages, or $500,000.

The law allows for greater punitive damages in cases where the motivation was financial. For instance, if someone knowingly does something that will likely harm others because it will make them money, Florida allows for punitive damages of no greater than 4 times the amount of compensation for damages, or $2 million.

In extreme circumstances in which the defendant was intentionally trying to harm the victim – and successfully did so – there is no cap on the dollar amount of damages awarded. A judge can also override the cap if he or she sees fit to do so.

If a defendant that previously paid punitive damages has to appear before a Florida judge again in a similar case, the punitive award can also be increased.

Florida is among a handful of states that has separate rules for medical malpractice punitive awards. In cases involving medical malpractice, punitive damages generally cannot exceed $500,000, though there are some exceptions.

Let Armando fight for the compensation you deserve

At Armando Personal Injury Law, we want justice to be served and for our clients to recover every dollar they need to get their lives back on track. Our legal team works hard to build a strong, evidence-based case to win for you as well as the community at large. If we can stop an irresponsible person from harming others by pursuing punitive damages, then that’s what we’re going to do.

Attorney Armando Edmiston grew up in Hillsborough County in a family of medical professionals. He saw firsthand how accident victims were treated unfairly by insurance companies and knew from a young age that he wanted to help them.

Discover what our law firm can do for you and contact us today for a free consultation. Our office is located in Tampa, FL and we would be honored to speak with you about your potential legal case.

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