What Are Punitive Damages?

Drunk driving and accidents caused by texting while driving are different from other auto accident cases because the victim may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to other forms of compensation.

Traditionally, a negligent driver will be held accountable for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, both in the past and in the future. Drunk drivers or drivers who text while driving may also have to pay punitive damages. These are damages he or she will have to pay directly to the victim as a form of punishment. This is how the legal system punishes the person who is breaking the law. The at-fault person’s insurance company will not cover punitive damages. The drunk driver or the driver who was texting is responsible for paying personally. Nonpayment of punitive damages will lead to loss of his or her driver’s license.

What warrants a jury to find punitive damages in a personal injury case? Under Florida Statute 768.72, no claim for punitive damages shall be permitted unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the injured person that would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages. The injured person may move to amend her or his Complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages as allowed by Florida’s Rules of Civil Procedure. The Rules of Civil Procedure shall be liberally construed so as to allow the claimant discovery of evidence which appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discoverable admissible evidence on the issue of punitive damages. No discovery of financial worth shall proceed until after a hearing concerning punitive damages is permitted and ordered by a Judge.

The at-fault person may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. To obtain punitive damages one of the following must apply:
(a) “Intentional misconduct” means that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.
(b) “Gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.

At Carey Leisure & Neal, our lawyers never overlook punitive damages in our quest to maximize compensation. At Carey Leisure & Neal, our lawyers handle punitive damage claims and make sure the at-fault person is punished.