Have you suffered an injury due to another’s negligence? It is important to find out what types of damages apply to your case.
“Damages” refer to financial compensation for losses caused by an accident. There are different types of damages based on how a person’s life is impacted as a result of getting injured.
In Florida, there are 2 categories of damages:
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages
We’ll explore both in this article.
Table of Contents
What Are Compensatory Damages?
The goal of compensatory damages in a personal injury case is to make an injured person “whole” again through compensation.
There are two categories of economic damages in Florida: Economic and Non-economic damages.
Economic Damages in Florida
Economic damages compensate a plaintiff (the injured party) for financial harm caused by getting injured in an accident.
Economic damages in Florida are “uncapped” in personal injury and wrongful death cases, meaning it is possible to recover all your financial losses after getting injured in an accident. Economic damages can be proved by offering documentation of medical expenses, past pay stubs, etc.
Common economic damages in Florida include:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Diminished Earning Capacity
- Lost support or services
- Property damage
Economic damages can be proved by offering documentation of medical expenses, past pay stubs, etc.
What Kind of Medical Expenses Can I Be Compensated For?
In Florida, you can claim damages for past, current, and future medical costs arising out of an accident. This covers a wide array of bills, services, therapy, procedures, and medical equipment.
Some examples of common medical expenses covered by economic damages in Florida are:
- Hospital bills
- Doctor and nurse bills
- Emergency care
- Surgical Procedures
- Home health care
- Therapy (current and future treatment)
- Physical therapy (current and future treatment)
- Medication costs
- Diagnostic expenses
- Bandages and wound care costs
To ensure you are compensated for all your medical expenses, make sure to document every bill, receipt, prescription, surgical procedure, and diagnostic report, and request for payment related to treatment for an injury you suffered in an accident.
To collect future medical expenses, it is helpful to have a doctor’s or therapist’s note stating the prognosis for your injury or diagnosis and the kind of treatment or medication that will likely be required.
All this makes it easier for the jury to calculate the amount of damages to award you for medical expenses.
What is the Collateral Source Rule in Florida?
Florida follows the collateral source rule, which means a defendant who is found liable for negligence does not get to pay fewer damages just because a portion of the plaintiff’s expenses may have been covered by insurance, social security, or another source of benefits.
Evidence of third-party coverage for certain expenses is typically not allowed to be admitted as evidence for a jury to consider in awarding economic damages.
This is opposed to some states which only allow economic damages for expenses “actually paid” (and not partially covered by a third party) by the injured party in a tort claim.
Non-economic Damages in Florida
Non-economic damages attempt to compensate for personal losses that cannot be measured, estimated, or truly made up for by an amount of money.
Non-economic damages in Florida include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress and mental anguish following an accident
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of spousal and parental companionship (also known as loss of consortium)
- The effects of scarring or disfigurement
- Physical impairment or disability
This is a non-exhaustive list, for non-economic damages are unique to each case and situation.
How does a Jury Calculate Pain and Suffering?
Since non-economic damages are not able to be quantified like financial harm can, the jury’s determination on the amount of non-economic damages is subjective.
To try and most accurately compensate a victim of an accident for their non-economic losses, the jury typically considers a variety of different factors to determine the amount of non-economic damages to award such as:
- Whether the injury is permanent
- Whether the victim is permanently disfigured or scarred
- The victim’s age
- The victim’s life expectancy following the accident
- The expected time it will take to recover
- Major life events or opportunities the victim will not be able to enjoy as a result of being injured or impaired
- Loss of ability to continue in a career
- The victim’s mental and physical health before vs. after the injuries
Florida used to have a cap on the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff could receive, but that is no longer the case.
This means the jury can award whatever amount of non-economic damages it feels would bring the victim and their family as close to becoming “whole again” as is possible through a monetary award.
There are a few things you can do to help your chances of getting the amount of compensation:
- Keep a pain log
- Keep a list of things you can no longer do or are impaired after the accident
- Show a doctor’s note or therapist’s note describing the effects of the accident on your ability to enjoy life
- Have family members and/or coworkers serve as witnesses that can describe to the jury how the accident has impacted your ability to spend time with them or do things you used to
You should also talk to your lawyer about ways to document your non-economic damages.
Florida “Threshold Requirements” for Non-economic Damages in Car Accidents
When it comes to car accidents, Florida has certain boxes a claimant has to check in order to get through the “door” to sue for non-economic damages (known as threshold requirements).
This limits who can collect non-economic damages for pain and suffering following a car accident in Florida based on how severe the injury is.
Under Fl. St. 627.737 (which applies to traffic accidents), the injury has to involve:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function (e.g. permanent loss of left arm movement)
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or
These requirements only apply to traffic accidents falling under this statute.
Punitive Damages in Florida
The second category of damages in Florida is punitive damages.
Punitive damages are not to compensate the plaintiff, but to punish a defendant who was extremely negligent or reckless. They are intended to prevent future poor behavior of the likes by setting an example.
Punitive damages in Florida cannot be asked for in every case, but only where the court decides there is an evidentiary basis for punitive damages.
This usually requires showing the defendant intentionally disregarded standards of morality, rather than just being careless.
For example, a drunk driver with a high blood alcohol content who caused a serious accident may be required to pay punitive damages for deciding to disregard morality in getting behind the wheel and causing an accident.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in South Florida
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you with getting your compensation. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers at the location nearest you for a free consultation.