When someone is injured in an auto accident, Florida law allows them to collect damages if they can prove that the driver was negligent. The damages that can be collected are for both property damage and bodily injury and other economic losses that came from the accident.
Must Prove Negligence
Before any damages can be collected, the injured person must prove that the other driver was at fault meaning he or she was negligent. A jury would look at the actions of the alleged at-fault driver and compare them to what a reasonably prudent driver would do in the same circumstances.
Type of Damages
Once the driver is determined to be negligent, then the law allows the injured victim to collect different types of damages for compensation. These can be broken down in two broad categories: economic and non-economic.
These are damages that a certain monetary amount can be determined. Things like medical bills and lost wages from missed time from work. These have a dollar amount attached based on the loss. In Florida, economic damages that are commonly collected are:
- Medical bills past and future
- Lost wages from missed work
- Future lost wages from disability
- Travel to doctors/rehab
- Modifications to vehicle/house for disability
- Funeral expenses
- Any quantifiable costs related to the accident
These are for losses that don’t have an easily determined amount associated. Things like pain or mental anguish. In Florida, non-economic damages that are commonly collected are:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium (intimacy with spouse)
- Loss of companionship
- Physical Impairment
- Any other intangible loss associated with the accident
There is a third category of damages that Florida law allows. This is called punitive damages, and it is allowed to punish the at-fault driver for wrongdoing that goes beyond negligence. This is for conduct by the driver that is intentional or egregious. Some of the actions that lead to punitive damage in Florida are:
- If the driver behaves in a wanton, reckless, reprehensible manner;
- Extremely high speed
- Impaired which caused the accident (.08 or higher BAC)
- Engaged in criminal behavior and causes a car accident
- Purposefully and knowingly fails to fix and maintain car (ie brakes or other critical repair)
In most cases, injured drivers in Florida don’t seek punitive damages because most insurance policies do not cover punitive damages. If a victim thinks punitive damages are possible, then the finances of the at-fault driver should be investigated to see if there is any compensation source that would pay punitive damages such as an umbrella policy or if the person has significant wealth.
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