Review of when punitive damages are available in Florida

Several posts on this blog have discussed how, in some cases, an injured victim in the Tampa Bay area can recover punitive damages after the victim has suffered an injury in a car accident. A review of punitive damage in Florida may therefore be helpful.

Basically, punitive damages are available in those cases where it is appropriate to make an example out of the person responsible for the accident. As the name implies, punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, go above and beyond compensation for medical bills and the like, as they are designed to punish the wrongdoer for behavior that is simply unacceptable. Punitive damages also serve as a warning to others not to engage in such behavior.

In Florida, in order to win an award of punitive damages, the victim must first prove that the responsible party was beyond careless. In other words, the person responsible must have injured the victim either on purpose or in such a manner as to show that there was little to no regard for the victim’s safety. The victim has to prove the case by what our state calls clear and convincing evidence.

To give an example comparison, it may be more difficult for a victim to make a case for punitive damages where a driver caused an accident simply by running a stop sign after getting blinded by the sun. On the other hand, a drunk driving accident is a good example of the type of case where punitive damages may be awarded, as drinking and driving is both extremely dangerous and entirely preventable.

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Imagine you are driving along minding your own business when a semi hits a median after crossing three lanes of traffic, blocking your lane. Unable to stop in time, you strike the truck’s cab with your much smaller vehicle. We don’t have to imagine that scenario because one of our clients lived it. Though he was unable to walk away from the crash without injury, we were able to help him walk away from the incident with a settlement that will make things easier for him and his family.