After any Florida car crash, you may be able to recover compensatory damages for your injuries. These damages could include compensation for your past and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, and emotional suffering. Compensatory damages are critical to your recovery and often the only type of damages possible after a car crash. However, if a drunk driver caused your accident, other damages may also be possible.
Punitive Damages Punish the Drunk Driver
After a car accident victim receives damages in a personal injury case for drunk driving, punitive damages may also be awarded. Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault driver and deter other drivers from drinking and driving. The court has discretion to award these damages when it finds the defendant’s behavior grossly and especially harmful and outrageous. Although punitive damages aren’t mean to compensate the victim, often the victim receives part or all of the punitive damages award.
How to Obtain Punitive Damages
Florida law requires that you get special permission from the court before you go to trial seeking punitive damages. This requirement aims to prevent frivolous or unfounded punitive damage claims.
If you have permission to seek punitive damages, you may recover damages if a jury finds by greater weight of the evidence that one of the following is true:
- The defendant’s act of drunk driving was so flagrant and gross as to show reckless disregard for human life or safety.
- The defendant’s act of drunk driving showed an entire lack of care, and the defendant was consciously indifferent to the consequences.
- The defendant’s act of drunk driving showed an entire lack of care, and the defendant recklessly or wantonly disregarded public welfare.
- The defendant’s act of drunk driving showed such reckless indifference to the rights of others as to equate to an intentional violation of other people’s rights.
Drunk Drivers Pay Their Own Punitive Damages
Drunk driving is an intentional act. Therefore, car insurance companies do not pay a defendant’s punitive damages. Some defendants have the financial ability to pay punitive damages, while others cannot pay. Either way, it is often important to pursue punitive damages in a Florida drunk driving case. The jury will hear evidence that the driver was drunk and may award you more in pain and suffering damages even if you can’t recover punitive damages.
To make sure that all relevant evidence about damages is presented to the court, we encourage you to contact the Browning Law Firm today to begin protecting your rights.