The laws in Florida that protect victims of auto accidents are different than those in most of the country. We have addressed elsewhere that this has benefits and drawbacks, but one factor that warrants special attention is the question of punitive damages.
On the face of it, it would appear as though victims of auto accidents do not have the option of seeking punitive damages in Florida, but this is not entirely accurate. There are specific instances where punitive damages may be sought, and it is important that your case is considered in light of these options.
Punitive damages are any damages that exceed direct compensation and are designed to punish the defendant for his or her actions or decisions. Florida law allows for claimants to seek punitive damages in very few circumstances, but those circumstances allow for a certain degree of interpretation by case. The two broad categories in which punitive damages can be sought are intentional misconduct and gross negligence. Either of these must be shown with clear and convincing evidence. As we describe briefly in the video below, instances of reckless driving and impaired driving may meet these legal standards.
Employers or other supervisors of individuals who have caused injury or damage while on the clock can only be held accountable to punitive damages if they can be shown to have participated in, contributed to, or condoned the actions of the agent or employee.
What This Means
Intentional misconduct is defined in the law as an action that the defendant willfully took that he or she knew was wrong and had a high chance of causing injury or damage to the claimant. Willful actions of any type that are known by the defendant to increase the risk of harm to others may meet this standard, but must be examined on an individual basis.
Gross negligence is defined in the law as actions which, through a reckless or careless nature, show the defendant to be so indifferent to the rights, life, or safety of others that the actions essentially serve as a willful disregard of others. This one may be a bit more unclear in application, as it does not require the defendant to make a conscious choice with full knowledge of risk, but rather an indifference to the possibility of risk.
The pursuit of punitive damages in the event of an auto accident in Florida require the help of a lawyer who will actively seek to understand the details of the case and how they may provide clear and convincing evidence for at least one of two vaguely defined, but limiting, categories. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.