February 21, 2015
The goal of any civil lawsuit is to return a plaintiff to the position he or she was in prior to an accident or situation. In order for a plaintiff to return to their “normal” life, the defendant is responsible for compensatory damages. For example, if you were in a car accident at the fault of another person, he or she will need to repair any damages to your car; similarly, if you were injured and could not work, your lost wages should be reimbursed. In addition to compensatory damages, the defendant may also be ordered to pay something known as punitive damages.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are meant to further punish the defendant in a trial. Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in that they are not designed to give something back to the plaintiff. Instead, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for conduct that is deemed extreme or outrageous. Ultimately, punitive damages are used not only as a punishment, but as a deterrent against unruly behaviors for both the defendant and society as a whole.
Punitive Damages in the State of Florida
Punitive damages are handled differently in each state. Because the laws surrounding punitive damages differ on a state-by-state basis, it is important for everyone to understand how punitive damages work in their location. An award of punitive damages in Florida, for example, is a two-step process. The first step involves a hearing prior to the trial where it is determined whether or not there is sufficient evidence to warrant a claim for punitive damages. Second, the plaintiff must be able to establish to a jury that he or she should be awarded the damages. Furthermore, Section 768.72 of the Florida Statutes states that there can be no claim for punitive damages “unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant, which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.” Intentional misconduct or negligence on behalf of the defendant must be proven in order for punitive damages to be awarded. Ultimately, it is not entirely clear as to what each court will consider to be a reasonable basis for punitive damages.
When to Call an Attorney
Because the laws surrounding punitive damages can be confusing, it is important to have a legal professional on your side. If you are facing charges or think you may have a claim, the legal team at the Khonsari Law Group can help guide you through this difficult time. If you have questions regarding punitive damages, contact us today or click here to schedule a free consultation.