Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may be awarded in rare Florida personal injury lawsuits. Even though punitive damages do not compensate an injured party for losses, the damages are paid to the plaintiff (injured party). Only a few cases qualify for punitive damages, so always talk with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney who understands Florida’s punitive damages laws.

Defining Punitive Damages for an Orlando Personal Injury Lawsuit

Defining Punitive Damages for an Orlando Personal Injury Lawsuit

Jurors award punitive damages to “punish” a defendant (at-fault party) for their conduct. In addition to punishing the defendant for their behavior, punitive damages also discourage the defendant from repeating the same type of behavior. Furthermore, other individuals might be dissuaded from engaging in the same type of conduct for fear of being punished financially for their misconduct.

Punitive damages do not compensate the plaintiff for damages. Nonetheless, the plaintiff receives the amount of punitive damages awarded in their case in addition to the amount awarded for compensatory damages.

However, a plaintiff must meet the burden of proof before a jury can award punitive damages. Additionally, the amount that can be awarded for punitive damages is capped in many personal injury cases. 

Proving Damages for a Personal Injury Claim in Orlando, FL

Individuals can recover compensatory damages for their economic and non-economic damages for a personal injury claim. Economic damages include expenses and financial losses associated with the accident or injury, such as medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Non-economic damages represent the victim’s pain and suffering. 

Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. Therefore, victims must prove the other party caused their injuries and damages before they can recover compensatory damages. The burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, which means there is more than a 50% chance the person is responsible for the victim’s injuries and damages.

However, punitive damages are not included in compensatory damages. Punitive damages require an enhanced level of proof. Additionally, the plaintiff must prove the at-fault party’s conduct met the requirements for punitive damages to apply.

What Is Required To Prove Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case in Orlando, FL?

The elements of punitive damages must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. This level of proof is higher than the level of proof required for compensatory damages. 

Clear and convincing requires the plaintiff to prove that it is highly and substantially more likely that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s harm than not. The jurors must believe that the plaintiff’s claim is highly probable.

After proving there is a high likelihood that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s harm, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted with gross negligence or willful intent to harm them. 

Florida Statute §768.72 defines the conduct that a defendant must commit for punitive damages to apply:

  • Gross negligence means the defendant’s conduct was so wanting in care or was so reckless that it shows a conscious indifference or disregard for the rights, safety, or life of other people; OR,
  • Intentional misconduct means the defendant knew their conduct was wrong and had a high probability of causing the plaintiff injury. Still, even with that knowledge, the defendant continued with the action, which resulted in damage or injury.

An example of intentional misconduct would be assault and murder. Gross negligence could include driving under the influence or driving at excessive speeds through a school zone. However, other situations could qualify for punitive damages. 

What Are the Caps on Punitive Damages in Florida Personal Injury Cases?

Florida has a cap on punitive damages in most cases. The limit on punitive damages is $500,000 or three times the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. However, there are exceptions.

Florida does not place a cap on punitive damages if the case involves:

  • Elder abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Defendants who intentionally set out to cause injury or harm
  • Victims with disabilities
  • A defendant who injured someone while they were intoxicated 

Another exception exists when a defendant’s misconduct was to obtain financial gain. In those cases, the cap on punitive damages increases to $2 million. Judges have the discretion to override a cap if a jury awards an amount for punitive damages that exceeds the cap. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Punitive Damages Claims in Orlando, FL?

Punitive damages are a part of your personal injury case. As a result, the deadline to file a lawsuit seeking punitive damages depends on the type of personal injury claim. 

Most negligence claims, including those based on car accidents, have a two-year statute of limitations as of March 24, 2023. Injuries sustained before that date could have a different deadline. The statute of limitations for most cases involving strict liability, wrongful death, intentional torts, and medical malpractice is two years. 

However, the facts of the case and other laws could alter the deadline for filing personal injury cases. Talk with our lawyers as soon as possible to avoid losing your right to file a claim in court. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Orlando Personal Injury Lawyers

Our legal team at Payer Law Personal Injury Lawyers Injury Attorneys analyzes each factor in your case to determine how much your claim is worth. We maximize the value of your case by thoroughly documenting damages, including evidence that could support an argument for punitive damages. Contact our law firm at (407) 648-1510 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.