Can you recover punitive damages in a Florida PI case?

If you sustain a severe and costly personal injury in a Florida car or trucking accident, the law entitles you to compensation. Compensation typically falls into one of three categories: economic, noneconomic and punitive.

Economic damages are the easiest to calculate, as the purpose of these damages is to compensate you for measurable losses. Such losses typically include medical expenses, lost wages and property damage. Noneconomic damages are trickier for courts to calculate, as the purpose of this type of compensation is to offset losses that are the result of things like emotional duress, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. Unlike economic and noneconomic damages, the courts do not award punitive damages to compensate you for losses. Rather, the goal of punitive damages is to punish defendants and deter similar future behavior. Some states do not award punitive damages. Per 768.73, Florida’s statute on punitive damages, the Sunshine State does.

Punitive damage limitations

So that defendants are not unjustly punished, Florida sets a cap on punitive damages. In most personal injury cases, punitive damages may not exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is lower.

Limitation exceptions

Florida law does allow for awards that exceed the $500,000 cap when certain circumstances exist. For example, if a fact finder can determine that the defendant’s conduct was unreasonably dangerous and that his or her sole motivation was unreasonable financial gain, the cap on punitive damages increases to four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2 million. However, in this case the fact finder must prove that the defendant’s conduct was such that any reasonable person would have known it would result in injury to another individual. If the fact finder determines that the defendant intended to cause you harm and that his or her conduct did, in fact, result in an injury to you, the courts will not cap punitive damages.