Actual Case (not my case): $16.5 Million for pain and suffering was affirmed (approved) by the 4th District Court of Appeal for a 20 year old man who was rendered paraplegic after he was hit by a Jeep while he was on a motorcycle in Martin County, Florida.
$11.5 Million of the award was for future pain and suffering, disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, aggravation of a disease or physical defect or loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.
$5 Million was for past pain and suffering. The accident was in 2006. He was awarded $16,000 for past lost wages/income and $700,000 for future loss of ability to earn money.
The motorcyclist claimed that the driver of the Jeep was driving his mother’s vehicle with her permission and therefore the mother should be responsible. The driver of the jeep was allegedly intoxicated at the time of the accident.
My thoughts: I assume that the Plaintiff argued that he is going to live until age 78 or so, which would be another 58 years. If true, that means that the 4th district appeals court approved the jury’s award of approximately $198,275 a year for future pain and suffering.
I arrived at $198,275 by dividing the total future pain and suffering award ($11.5 Million) by his future life expectancy (58 year or so).
The court also approved the award of roughly a $1 Million a year for past pain and suffering. In Florida, an owner of a car is generally liable for damages (medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages up to $100,000) if someone drives the owner’s car with the owner’s permission and injures someone else.
Because the driver of the Jeep was driving his mother’s vehicle with her permission the mother is liable up to $100,000. In Florida, there is no limit on the amount that can be awarded against the driver of the vehicle for pain and suffering (or other damages) other than what the jury awards.
If an accident is caused by a drunk driver, the pain and suffering award is usually higher than if the driver was not drunk. This is because a jury may be bothered at the at-fault driver because driving drunk is an “accident waiting to happen” and the driver should know better.
I do not believe that punitive damages were awarded in this case. Punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault driver or car owner.
The bodily injury (BI) liability auto insurer generally does not have to pay punitive damages, but it has a duty to attempt in good faith to settle claims when, under all the circumstances, it could and should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly toward its insured and with due regard for her or his interests.
The motorcyclist may have to reimburse whoever (Medicare, health insurance, Medicaid, etc.) paid his medical bills from the total settlement. Depending on who paid the motorcyclist’s medical bills, the motorcyclist can argue that the amount, if any, that he may have to repay should be reduced based on factors such as his fault in the accident, as well as his attorney’s fees and costs and other factors.
If the driver and owner of the Jeep do not have enough bodily injury liability auto insurance to pay the verdict, the motorcyclist may be able to make a claim against his uninsured/undersinsured motorist (UM) auto insurer if he had UM insurance on either the motorcycle or another car that he owned.
The 4th District Court of Appeals in Florida covers Palm Beach County, Broward County, St. Lucie County, Martin County, Indian River County, and Okeechobee County.
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