What are Punitive Damages?

When someone is sued for negligence that causes someone’s injury, the goal of the lawsuit is to provide compensation to an injured individual. The point of a verdict or settlement in a negligence lawsuit is typically to make the injured person whole again and not necessarily to punish the wrongdoer. Sometimes, however, the conduct is so egregious that it becomes appropriate to punish the negligent party.

Compensatory Damages

Plaintiffs in negligence cases can receive compensation for economic damages.  Economic damages include tangible expenses such as medical costs, lost wages, and property damage. Plaintiffs can also sometimes receive compensation for non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are typically more subjective and include things such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. These economic and non-economic damages are called “compensatory damages” because they are designed to compensate the plaintiff for their losses.

Punitive Damages

In rare cases, negligent wrongdoers are asked to pay an injured individual a sum of money that is not calculated based on the economic or noneconomic harm or costs sustained by the injured party. These sums are known as “punitive damages.” The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer for particularly egregious conduct and to make an example of this person in order to deter other individuals from engaging in the same types of acts. Because they are not compensating the plaintiff for a particular loss, punitive damages are a windfall to a plaintiff and leave the plaintiff in a better position than they were before their injury.

Under Florida law, punitive damages are only awarded if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant was guilty of “intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” Intentional misconduct means that the defendant had actual knowledge that the conduct was wrong and that there was a high probability that it could result in an injury, but the defendant decided to engage in the conduct anyway. Gross negligence means the defendant’s conduct was so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard for the life, safety, or rights of other people. It is important to remember there are 4 elements of negligence in Florida.

Contact a Trusted Personal Injury Attorney

While you may not be entitled to punitive damages in every case, if you’ve been injured by someone’s negligence you may be entitled to some type of compensation and should have an experienced attorney evaluate your case. Contact the trusted lawyers at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk online or call us at 1-800-538-4878 to schedule your free consultation.

Learn more about the Florida Statute 768.72 on punitive damages.