Are Car Accident Victims Ever Entitled to Punitive Damages in Florida?
Most car accidents are just that: accidents. While the majority of wrecks could have been prevented had one or more parties exercised reasonable care, they’re rarely acts of intentional malice or egregious negligence.
On occasion, however, a collision can be chalked up to something more than unintentional carelessness. When that’s the case, it’s only natural for victims to demand reparation beyond the typical damages.
Thankfully, the state of Florida recognizes the validity of such a demand. When the circumstances surrounding an accident meet certain criteria, those who were hurt can seek a punitive award in addition to compensation for their monetary and non-monetary losses.
In order to secure punitive damages, you’re going to have to convince the insurance adjuster—or, if your claim ends up in court, the jury—that the liable party’s conduct constituted gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Let’s take a look at the kinds of behaviors that are indicative of such conduct:
- Getting behind the wheel while knowingly under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Ignoring urgent maintenance issues that make it dangerous to drive in traffic, like failing brakes;
- Texting while driving after having been cited for it one or more times by law enforcement personnel;
- “Brake checking” vehicles in traffic;
- Committing dangerous maneuvers fueled by road rage, like tailgating; and
- Purposely striking another vehicle.
If the accident in which you were hurt was caused by someone doing any of the above, there’s a good chance you’re entitled to a punitive award on top of the standard compensatory damages. Since carriers are not inclined to distribute such awards without putting up a fight, however, it’s wise to seek legal counsel for help pursuing one.
A resourceful car accident attorney can investigate the crash from all angles. While they work, they’ll gather the evidence needed to prove the motorist’s conduct did, in fact, constitute gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Along the way, they’ll also compile the proof needed to seek to compensatory damages, thereby maximizing your total potential payout.
Does Florida Tort Law Impose Any Caps on Car Accident Damages?
Damage caps might seem unfair—you have no control, after all, over the total losses you incur—but most states incorporate at least a few to help mitigate frivolous claims. When it comes to car accident claims, Florida does not impose a cap on compensatory damages. There is, however, a limit to the amount you can see in punitive damages.
Typically, claimants cannot secure more than $500,000 (or three times their total compensatory damages, if that’s greater) as a punitive award. If the at-fault party was acting out of intentional malice, though, this cap does not apply.
Speak with a West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney
Are you hoping to include punitive damages in your car accident claim? For help building your case, turn to Donaldson & Weston. Our tenacious team of trial-tested attorneys has assisted hundreds of clients in personal injury and wrongful death actions. To set up your free initial consultation with a car accident lawyer in West Palm Beach, call 561-299-3999 or fill out the Contact Form on our website.