What Are Punitive Damages?

When someone is hurt in an accident, the costs of that accident are known as damages. Some damages serve as compensation for injuries and the effects of those injuries. These types of damages are known as compensatory damages because they compensate injury victims for the costs of their injuries. 

Sometimes, a court will determine that compensatory damages are not enough in a specific case. In these situations, a court can award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. If you have questions about damages, then make sure you ask for an experienced attorney’s advice. 

Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases

If someone is hurt in an accident, then they can seek various types of damages for their injuries. There are three main categories of damages that are available in personal injury cases: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. 

Economic damages: These damages are the backbone of most personal injury claims. Economic damages refer to the direct costs and expenses an injury victim incurs as a result of their injuries. These can include property damage, medical bills, and lost income from being unable to work. 

Non-economic damages: These compensate an injury victim for the long-term harm they suffer as a result of their injuries. When injuries are permanent or cause major life changes, a court may award non-economic damages. If you are permanently disabled or unable to live the same life that you did before an accident, then you may be eligible for non-economic damages. 

Punitive damages: This is the rarest form of damages. Punitive damages only exist in specific cases. In Florida, punitive damages can be awarded when clear and convincing evidence shows that the defendant was guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. 

How Are Punitive Damages Different Than Other Damages?

The most common damages are compensatory damages. In some cases, a plaintiff’s injuries are temporary, and the injury victim can lead a normal life after recovery. In these cases, you will most likely only see economic damages awarded. 

In other cases, injuries are more serious and come with permanent effects. In these cases, the injury victim is unable to live a normal life after their accident. In these cases, you will most likely see both economic and non-economic damages awarded. 

Punitive damages are different. They punish the party who caused the injury rather than compensate the victim. Courts award punitive damages to punish the guilty party and deter others from acting in the same way in the future. 

Generally, punitive damage awards can be very high. However, they are often subject to caps. These damages are in addition to economic and non-economic damages.

Is There a Cap on Punitive Damages in Florida?

Many states limit the amount of punitive damages a jury can award. In Florida, a punitive damage award cannot exceed the greater of:

  • Three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded; or
  • $500,000.

If the wrongful conduct was motivated by personal financial gain linked to unreasonably dangerous conduct, a punitive damage award cannot exceed the greater of:

  • Four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded; or
  • $2,000,000.

If the defendant intended to harm the plaintiff, there is no limit on punitive damages in Florida. 

Punitive damages are not common. They are generally available in select cases involving egregious misbehavior by the defendant, such as a drunk driving or assault case. Ordinary personal injury cases only qualify for economic and non-economic damages.

Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer for Help

If someone else injured you, you should contact a personal injury attorney from Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers. They will explain your legal options for pursuing compensation from the at-fault party. They will also detail the damages you may be entitled to for your injuries, including economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.