Damage Caps in Florida for Car Accidents

How much will I receive in my Florida personal injury case? This is a common question that I hear. The answer depends on the extent of your injuries and the degree of negligence of the other party. It also depends on the expertise of the lawyer. As an experienced personal injury attorney with a track record of winning significant awards for my clients, I know what questions to ask and where to look to provide you with the maximum compensation for your injuries.

Personal injury lawsuits can be filed for any situation in which you believe you have been hurt due to the negligence of another party. Car accidents are a common cause of injuries for which compensation may be sought. Others may include accidents involving other types of vehicles, such as bicycles, off-road recreation vehicles, boats, and jet skis; defective or dangerous product injuries; slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall cases; medical malpractice; animal attacks; and unsafe premises. 

Regardless of the cause of the personal injury, Florida law applies no caps on economic or non-economic damages, collectively referred to as compensatory damages. Florida does have a cap on punitive damages, which a jury may impose upon the party at fault as a form of punishment when gross or willful negligence has occurred. The cap on punitive damages is three times the compensatory damages or a maximum of $500,000. 

Proving your personal injury case

Punitive damages cannot be awarded unless compensatory damages are awarded, since injury must be demonstrated for a personal injury case to proceed. Florida law requires that the plaintiff in a personal injury case prove:

  1.       The person or business who caused your injury owed you a duty of care
  2.       The person or business was negligent in that duty
  3.       You suffered injury or damage that was caused by the breach of  that duty
  4.       The injury or damage can be demonstrated legally 

As a Florida personal injury attorney, I leave no stone unturned to help my clients receive the compensation they deserve. One of the first steps is to determine who breached the duty of care and to collect evidence to prove it in court. A duty of care means the person or business had a legal obligation, or duty, to provide you with safe products,  services, or facilities. 

In the case of a car accident, if a driver did not follow the laws of the road and subsequently caused an accident, that driver breached the duty of care. However, if the accident was caused by brake failure due to a manufacturing defect, that driver did not breach the duty of care, but the manufacturer may have.

Next, we must determine the full extent of your injuries from the accident and provide detailed evidence to demonstrate that the injuries were caused by the accident. The physical injuries, financial losses, and intangible damages must be thoroughly documented. I work with my clients to collect the strongest evidence, often calling upon expert witnesses to strengthen the case. Some of the documentation may include:

  • Medical records, log of visits to healthcare professionals, and any correspondence with healthcare providers, insurers, Medicare/Medicaid
  • Medical bills, including medical insurance coverage, premiums paid, and payments insurers have made
  • Expenses for remodeling homes or buying or equipping special vehicles needed to accommodate for the injury or illness
  • Receipts for payments you have made toward your health
  • Psychology records if mental health issues are related to the injury
  • Evidence of time off from work due to the injury; pay stubs and tax returns to demonstrate income lost
  • Evidence of damage to property, such as your automobile, and all costs associated with repair or replacement
  • Thorough description of pain and suffering or damage to relationships or mental health due to the accident
  • Photographs of you before and after injury and any other helpful photos
  • Testimonies from friends or family members to corroborate your claims

Note that it is possible that an accident may have worsened an existing medical condition, such as a bad back, but it is critical to provide extensive documentation and expert witnesses to prove that your pre-existing condition would not have naturally progressed to the state of injury you are in after the accident. 

The more evidence you can provide, the stronger our case will be to demand a significant award for compensatory damages, for which there is no cap. 

Punitive damages

Punitive damages are less commonly awarded, but if I discover evidence of willful or extreme negligence, I will sue for punitive damages, as well, which could significantly increase your award. 

For instance, if you were in a car accident with a driver for a delivery service and the driver was drunk, and the company knew that the driver had a drinking problem but still allowed him to drive, I would demand punitive damages against the company and perhaps against the driver, since both breached their duty of care in a truly grievous manner. 

Thus, if you were awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages, you could potentially be awarded as much as $450,000 in punitive damages (three times the compensatory damages) for a total of $600,000. If you received $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, you could receive $500,000 in punitive damages (the cap), for a total of $1,500,000. 

Would you like a free consultation to discuss your case? Contact me today from anywhere in Florida, 24/7, at (954) 448-7288 so that we can get started.

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