After an injury, you’re likely not only hurt, but you’re financially burdened by expensive surgeries, repairs, and lost income. You probably want compensation for what you’ve suffered.
Damages, however, are not only used to give back what you are owed. In some cases, they’re meant to also bring justice to the plaintiff by punishing the person who caused the accident.
For most claims, punitive damages won’t apply. In certain cases, however, like recent suits against cigarette companies and fast food corporations, your damages may be especially extensive, caused by gross negligence or intentional misconduct. While punitive damages are uncommon, especially painful or traumatizing cases may call for them.
Defining Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are used to punish the defendant for extremely negligent behavior. These are in addition to your compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
One of the largest-scale actions for punitive damages is a 1998 case in which representatives of Florida smokers filed against the tobacco industry, initially winning $145 billion in punitive damages. While the case was later overturned for being too wide-ranging, it led to later personal claims awarding millions to smokers.
In this case, the plaintiffs stated that the tobacco companies knowingly sold a dangerous product that left many of them sick or caused the loss of a loved one. While your case may not be against such a large corporation, punitive damages could increase the value of your claim, depending on the severity of your situation.
When Punitive Damages Apply
Punitive damages typically apply in especially egregious cases of negligence or malice. The awarding of punitive damages requires significant evidence that the defendant acted not just negligently, but either intentionally or grossly so.
For example, imagine you purchased a phone that would become so hot that it caused severe burns. As you prepare your case, you may find out that similar suits against this manufacturer had happened before, but the company never changed the phones to prevent them from burning people. You have evidence that your phone caused serious burns despite the corporation’s knowledge of the problem.
In a case like this, the corporation has been grossly negligent. It knew of the issue, but rather than protect the safety of its customers, it didn’t change the structure of the phone and allowed more injuries to happen. In this case, you may be awarded further damages for your suffering because of the phone manufacturer.
How We Can Help
While punitive damages can’t make up for the suffering you’ve already experienced, they can be used to punish the responsible party and hopefully deter others from making the same choices. It’s complicated, however, to determine when punitive damages may apply in Florida personal injury cases.
If you believe you should pursue punitive damages for your suffering, reach out to Lavent Law. We understand the good punitive damages can do to deter other incidents and help you recover. We can be reached through our online contact form below or at 305-440-0450.