Damages in civil claims fall into two main categories: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages include any form of compensation for economic damages, such as medical bills and rehabilitation costs, or non-economic damages like pain and suffering or loss of consortium. Punitive damages, on the other hand, simply exist to punish someone for particularly egregious recklessness or wrongdoing.
Generally, punitive damages do not get awarded in cases that involve simple negligence. Standard carelessness is not enough to make punitive damages a reasonable punishment in a case. Instead, there must be an element of gross negligence or recklessness for punitive damages to be applied.
‘Gross negligence’ and recklessness
Grossly negligent actions are those that are significantly more unreasonable than other negligent actions. In such a case, the person committing the grossly negligent act should have known (or did know) that his or her action was unsafe or that someone was likely to get hurt, but decided to proceed anyway. Sometimes these actions are intentional.
A person with a particularly high blood alcohol content in a drunk driving accident, for example, may have acted with gross negligence. The person driving knew — or should have known — that driving in that state was unsafe, but decided to do so anyway. In some cases, a driver who knowingly drives a vehicle with serious mechanical problems could also be considered grossly negligent.
Ultimately, the application of punitive damages depends on the court’s preferences and precedent. The clear majority of personal injury cases will not include punitive damages, but it is possible.
For more information on the damages available in your Florida personal injury claim, speak with a knowledgeable Bradenton attorney at Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez & Walsh.