Punitive damage claims may be allowed if the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Punitive damage claims are in addition to economic damages and non-economic damages. If a claimant is allowed to make a claim for punitive damages, it can significantly drive up the value of a Florida injury case.
You most likely will not get punitive damages in the following types of claims: slip, trip and falls, cruise accidents, or accident at a business establishment.
In Florida, the two most common circumstances where punitive damages claims may be allowed are if the tortfeasor driver was drunk or on a cell phone at the time of the crash.
Florida DUI crash cases
If drunk driver causes your injury in a Florida car or truck crash, you may be able to make a punitive damage claim as well. If a drunk driver’s negligence caused your injury, then F.S. §768.73 does not limit any punitive damage award. This is good for injured people.
If the Florida DUI crash victim is a witness is the criminal trial, it can increase the likelihood that he or she may make a punitive damage claim.
Can You Get Punitive Damages from a Florida Uninsured Motorist Insurer from a Florida Car Accident?
No. Florida has a public policy that says that uninsured motorist (UM) insurers don’t have to pay punitive damages.
Can You Get Punitive Damages from another state’s UM Insurer from a Florida Car Accident?
Maybe. For example, punitive damages may be payable under a Georgia UM insurance policy for a Georgia resident, although your car accident happened in Florida, and Florida public policy doesn’t allow payment of punitive damages under an insurance contract. Federal Ins. Co. v. National Distributing Co., Inc., 203 Ga.App. 763, 417 S.E.2d 671 (1992).
This is a big advantage for Georgia residents, who’re hurt in Florida, if the careless driver was driving drunk or did something that warrants punitive damages.
Punitive Damages Not Discharged in Bankruptcy
If a drunk driver’s negligence caused your injury, he or she cannot get punitive damages are not discharged in bankruptcy.
Can you get punitive damages if the at fault driver was using a cell phone during the car accident?
Several courts have allowed punitive damage claims in cases involving defendant drivers who caused car crashes while talking on a cell phone. McLane v. Rich Transp., Inc., 2012 WL 3257658, at **1-2, 5-7 (E.D. Ark. Aug. 9, 2012) (on cell phone); Gaddis v. Hegler, 2011 WL WL2111801, at **3-5 (S.D. Miss. May 26, 2011) (speeding, ran red light, and on cell phone). Howell v. Kusters, 2010 WL 877510, at **1-2 (Sup. Ct. Del. Mar. 5, 2010) (ran red light and on cell phone); Hoskins v. King, 676 F. Supp. 2d 441, 444-45, 449-51 (D. S.C. 2009) (on cell phone and possibly adjusting radio).
In addition to the above out-of-state cases, many Florida courts have recognized cases involving drivers using cell phones are the type of case that allows a plaintiff to claim punitive damages. Breen v. Cruz, No. 13-CA-001489 (Fla. 20th Cir. Mar. 2, 2015) (on cell phone and violated right of way at time of crash); Himelwright v. Strouse, No. CACE 13-005635 13 (Fla. 17th Cir. Apr. 22, 2014) (on cell phone at time of crash); Carlo v. McKee, No. 12-29626 CA 27 (Fla. 11th Cir. Jan. 15, 2014) (on cell phone at time of crash); Turner v. Frye, No. 11-CA-009168-O (Fla. 9th Cir. Nov. 20, 2013) (on cell phone at time of crash); Buzaglo v. Williamson, No. 10-000219 05 (Fla. 17th Cir. Sep. 13, 2012) (on cell phone texting at time of crash); Jordan v. Taylor, No. 16-2010-CA-008710 (Fla. 4th Cir. June 28, 2012) (on cell phone and driving too many hours at time of crash); Gromlowicz v. A-One Utilities, Inc., No. 16-2009-CA-3184 (Fla. 4th Cir. Aug. 12, 2010) (on cell phone and violated right of way).
Negligent Driver was Using Cell Phone
Some Florida courts have allowed a punitive damage claim if the careless driver was on a cell phone at the time of the crash and caused injury to the claimant. For example, if a witness testifies that the negligent driver was operating a large truck (e.g. a 60,000 pound dump truck, etc.) and talking on a cell phone at the time of the crash in Florida, the claimant may be allowed to present a punitive damage claim.
In Florida, if the other driver turns a huge truck into the claimant’s right of way and causes injury, the court may allow the jury to decide whether punitive damages should be granted.
Bigger Injuries Generally Get Larger Punitive Damage Awards
Punitive damage awards in Florida are generally larger if the claimant’s injuries are more serious. For example, assuming the injured person has a punitive damage claim, it will usually be larger if he or she has a broken femur as compared to neck pain that went away after 4 to 6 weeks.
Punitive damages are just one of over 86 factors that can affect a Florida injury claim settlement value.
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