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Florida Punitive Damages Law Explained

People arguing in court

By Grace Hancock

If someone’s wrongdoing causes you injury, then standard compensation may not be enough to keep them from hurting others. That’s why Florida has punitive damages law; to discourage wrongdoers from further hurting others. Here, we explain what this law is and how it may apply to your personal injury claim.

The Basics of Punitive Damages

In a civil action, a plaintiff may be able to make a claim forpunitive damages against the defendant. A plaintiff can do this if they are able to provide a reasonable basis for recovering such damages.

But, the plaintiff can’t make a claim for punitive damages in their initial claim. To make a claim for such damages, they must get leave from the trial court to amend their complaint.

The plaintiff must also provide ample evidence to justify their claim. They must prove that the defendant acted with “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct. If the judge permits the claim, then they may award punitive damages to the plaintiff.

Proving Gross Negligence

To act with “gross negligence” means to act with a conscious disregard for the life, safety, or rights of others.

A store manager would be acting with gross negligence if they knew of a spill in their store that caused a customer to slip and injure themselves that the store manager could have prevented if they had cleaned the spill in a timely manner. In this case, the customer would be able to make a claim for punitive damages against the store for gross negligence.

Proving Intentional Misconduct

To act with “intentional misconduct” is pretty straightforward; it means to do something you know is wrong and that you know may cause injury to others. Furthermore, you still chose to engage in the action despite knowing the risks.

If someone were to drive you off a road, causing you to crash and injure yourself, then you would be able to make a claim for punitive damages against the defendant for intentional misconduct.

How To Calculate Punitive Damages

By Florida law, there are limitations on the number of punitive damages that can be fined against a defendant. In most cases, the amount of these damages cannot exceed the sum of $500,000. Or, they must not exceed three times the amount of compensation awarded to the plaintiff.

There are exceptions, such as if the defendant’s intentional actions were for financial gain, then the court can charge them as much as four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2 million in punitive damages.

The Purpose: To Punish Wrongdoers

The purpose of punitive damages law is to punish defendants and not to compensate plaintiffs. The intention of fining for such damages is to deter the defendant from ever engaging in the same actions. Not only is the purpose of this law to deter defendants from reoffending, but the law is also meant to deter other individuals from engaging in the same actions.

Punitive Versus Compensatory Damages

Whereas the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, the purpose of compensatory damages is to provide justice to the plaintiff after they have been wronged. A judge can award both types of damages to the plaintiff.

When Someone Does You Wrong: Know Your Rights

When someone’s gross negligence or intentional misconduct causes you injury, you can make a claim for punitive damages to make sure they never do it again. An experienced lawyer will be able to help you further understand what compensation you are entitled to and how to navigate the complicated legal process of a personal injury claim.

Attorney Mike Hancock has three decades of experience helping people like you get the compensation they deserve for their damages and injuries. If you believe you have a personal injury claim, then get in touch with us to see how we can help. Contact us online or call us at (813) 915-1110 to schedule your free case consultation today.