Hire an Experienced Fort Walton Car Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, then Florida law may not only entitle you to significant compensatory damages (paying out for your injuries and the consequences thereof) but may also allow you to pursue bonus punitive damages. These bonus punitive damages can lead to multimillion-dollar damage totals — in fact, many cases involving punitive damages have damage totals that are sufficiently high that they make the news. As such, pursuing punitive damages is worthwhile if you can justify the claim.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are unlike standard compensatory damages in that they are not intended to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries (i.e., to put the plaintiff in a position that closely approximates where they would have been had the accident not occurred).
Instead, punitive damages are intended to “punish” defendants for their malicious or otherwise reckless behavior by imposing a significant financial burden. For this reason, punitive damages are awarded as a multiple of the amount of the compensatory damages — up to seven times the amount of the compensatory damages.
For example, if you are owed $100,000 in compensatory damages (paying for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and wage loss), the court could potentially award punitive damages of up to $700,000 for an $800,000 total recovery amount.
These damages may seem excessive, but they serve a purpose — defendants who engage in behavior that is unacceptable in society must be punished and “made an example” of. Punitive damages serve as ample warning to others in society: if they engage in similar misconduct, they could face similar penalties.
Pursuing Punitive Damages in Florida
Courts have discretion in awarding punitive damages. As a bare minimum, however, you must satisfy the requirements for punitive damages under the law. In order to recover punitive damages in Florida, you — the car accident plaintiff — will have to show that the defendant engaged in intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Intentional misconduct means that the defendant was aware of the wrongfulness of their conduct and the high probability of injury that would result (and despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct).
Gross negligence means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless that it showed a conscious disregard for the life and safety of others.
How does this apply in a car accident case?
In Florida, a drunk driver may be liable for punitive damages. The likelihood of a court imposing punitive damages increases as the evidence of their misconduct is more clear. For example, if the drunk driver exclaimed (while sober) that they fully intended on getting drunk and driving, then that would very likely qualify as intentional misconduct and justify the imposition of punitive damages.
Similarly, a driver who “races” cars illegally on a roadway could be liable for punitive damages, as such behavior likely qualifies as gross negligence. Racing cars on a public roadway is fundamentally reckless and shows a disregard for the life and safety of others.
Contact a Fort Walton Car Accident Lawyer for Assistance Today
Powell Law Firm is a Florida-based personal injury firm founded close to seven decades ago. We regularly serve plaintiffs throughout the state of Florida in a wide range of personal injury disputes, including those centering around car accidents.
Over the years, we have developed a reputation as relentless litigators. We take a trial-ready approach to litigation. Ultimately, we are ready and willing to take a case to trial. This approach gives us an advantage in negotiations with opposing counsel — we are often able to secure a favorable settlement result at an early stage in the process.
If you’d like to speak to an experienced Fort Walton car accident lawyer at our firm, then call us at 850-682-2757 or send us a message online to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.