Paying Punitive Damages in Auto Accident Claims
Drunk Driving can Cost You More than You Think
Awarding Damages to Accident Victims
Damages (a monetary amount of some sort) awarded in any personal injury matter are designed to make the injured party “whole”. In other words, granting damages to a victim of an automobile accident or other type of personal injury claim is designed to return the injured person to the same condition they were in before the accident occurred.
Monetary damages awarded to a personal injury victim can include compensation for such things as property damage, past and future medical expenses, lost income, loss of earning capacity, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
What Are Punitive Damages?
In some cases, however, punitive damages may be recoverable. Punitive damages are a form of monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that supplies them with an amount in excess of that which is necessary to compensate them for direct injuries and losses.
Punitive damages differ from actual damages where an individual is awarded a sum of money that is believed to cover their actual injuries and losses. When an individual is awarded punitive damages, they receive compensation beyond what their direct injuries cost. When this occurs, the individual may be awarded an amount in addition to compensatory damages like lost wages and medical bills.
Also, when punitive damages are granted, they are often intended to punish and deter a wrongdoer’s offensive behavior if they engaged in gross negligence or intended misconduct.
Can Punitive Damages be Granted in an Automobile Accident Case?
Punitive damages are usually not recoverable for an automobile accident in the state of Florida. The reason for this is that most people do not intentionally try to get into an automobile accident or operate their car in a willful, wanton or reckless manner. In most cases automobile accidents are simply that – accidents. In automobile accidents the recoverable damages mentioned above are for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle and as a matter of law, negligence alone does not warrant punitive damages.
However, punitive damages may be recovered in the state of Florida in an auto accident case if the defendant’s negligent conduct is especially offensive and reckless.
An automobile accident victim may be awarded punitive damages if the defendant:
- is or may be charged with manslaughter for causing a death.
- behaves in a willful, wanton, reckless or intentional way
- flees the scene of an accident with injuries and thereby fails to render aid
- is engaged in criminal behavior when the accident occurs like fleeing from a police officer or drag racing
- knowingly fails to maintain his vehicle in a safe manner
- is voluntarily intoxicated from alcohol or some other illegal substance and causes an accident
Driving Drunk can Cost You Punitive Damages
Florida courts have consistently held that a person who voluntarily consumes alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication and then operates a motor vehicle demonstrates such a conscience and deliberate disregard for the safety of others that his conduct may be called willful or wanton, and accordingly, punitive damages may be recoverable in a personal injury action brought against the intoxicated driver. While most insurance policies have exclusions for intentional behavior and punitive damage awards, the existence of the punitive damage claim against the defendant for drinking and driving is a significant aggravating factor which significantly increases the value of a case and deters the intoxicated driver from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and theoretically benefits society as a whole by reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car crash or other type of motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to receive both compensatory (actual) damages and punitive damages for your injuries. Rue & Ziffra is a Florida personal injury law firm with a team of Daytona Beach auto accident attorneys. They have over 30 years of experience handling cases for accident victims and are available to answer any questions you may have during your free consultation.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.