What Are Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

By Osborne & Francis
October 25, 2023

When you suffer an injury that is a result of the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to recover specific types of damages in the form of financial compensation. There are different types of damages, and there are different guidelines that are followed for each when they are awarded to someone in a personal injury lawsuit. Punitive damages are not always sought by personal injury lawyers or awarded, but in some cases, they may be deemed appropriate.

Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Damages that are awarded in personal injury cases fall into categories, that sometimes overlap. While some compensatory damages may also be called economic damages, the categories are typically broken down as follows:

Economic Damages – These types of damages are financial losses and are sometimes referred to as actual damages. They include the expenses the injured person had as a result of the injuries he or she sustained. For example, medical bills lost wages, and the expenses of repairing or replacing damaged property.

Non-Economic Damages – These damages involve losses that have had a negative effect on the injured party but can’t be assigned a specific dollar value. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and loss of consortium.

Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are designed to be a punishment to the party whose negligence caused the injury. Punitive damages are only awarded when the defendant’s actions (or inactions) are found to have been exceptionally reckless or malicious.

Understanding Punitive DamagesUnlike economic and non-economic damages, which are meant to make an injured person whole financially, punitive damages are meant to punish, or penalize, the responsible party for the behavior that is tied to the injury. In some cases, the injured person is able to seek punitive damages when the defendant is found to have been intentional, reckless, malicious, or grossly negligent.

For an individual to be found grossly negligent, it must be proven that he or she demonstrated a conscious indifference or disregard for another person’s safety, rights, or life. It is quite different from regular negligence, which is usually defined as a breach of a general duty to act with reasonable care, in that it adds the element of recklessness.

In a personal injury case, there must be a reasonable basis for an injured person to ask for punitive damages. If there isn’t evidence that supports gross negligence or intentional behavior, then the injured person and his or her lawyer may be subject to sanctions assigned by the court. This helps prevent frivolous lawsuits from being filed.

Some states place limitations, or caps, on how much an injured person can be awarded for punitive damages. In Florida, the limit is three times the amount of the economic and non-economic damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Get Help from an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured as a result of someone’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. Boca’s prominent personal injury attorney, Joe Osborne, can help you determine the best way to proceed with your case. Contact him today at (561) 293-2600, to get started on your case. Don’t delay, you have a limited amount of time in which to file your claim.

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