What Exactly Are Damage Awards?
Whenever someone suffers an injury, whether through substandard care from a doctor or the negligence of a store owner or driver, it usually leaves the injured party feeling a deep mistrust of others. This mistrust can hinder them from seeking necessary medical treatment or curtail their willingness to engage in activities they previously loved. Assuming they file and win a medical malpractice or a personal injury case for their injuries, which is often a long and drawn out process, the reward for their patience and persistence is the receipt of damages for their injuries. Damages are intended to reimburse the injured party for costs incurred in connection with the accident or inappropriate treatment and to compensate for any reduction in their ability to enjoy life. The Florida Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of limitations on the recovery of noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. These caps were put in place in response to claims by doctors that high malpractice insurance premiums were damaging the medical system. While it is easy to understand that limiting how much an injured party can recover only add to this person’s burden, knowing what the different types of damages cover can help claimants better understand the end goal of malpractice and personal injury cases.
Economic damages refer to the quantifiable monetary losses an injured party sustained as a direct result of the injury. Expenses related to medical treatment, past and future, funeral expenses if the injured party died, and up to 80 percent of lost wages and lost earning capacity are recoverable in some cases. In addition, if the plaintiff suffered property damage, such as in a car accident, the replacement value of the item and repair costs are also included this category.
Non-economic damages relate to non-quantifiable losses caused by an injury, and the uncertainty around how much these losses are worth makes it difficult to predict how much this damage award could be. The following losses are included in this damage category:
- pain and suffering;
- physical impairment;
- mental anguish;
- disfigurement; and
- loss of capacity to enjoy life;
Punitive damages are awarded when a defendant’s behavior was so egregious or reckless that it is necessary to punish him/her by imposing additional monetary awards. Punitive damages also function to deter others from engaging in similar behavior because they will likely be ordered to pay punitive damages as well. Florida law does impose limits on the amount of punitive damages a defendant could pay. Generally, a plaintiff could receive up to three times the amount of compensatory (economic and non-economic damages) or $500,000. In situations where the wrongful acts of a representative of an organization were motivated by unreasonable financial gain and the primary decision-maker knew about the danger and likelihood of injury, the greater of four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2 million may be awarded. Finally, if the plaintiff can prove the defendant acted with the specific intent to harm, the law does not place a cap on punitive damages. However, it is worth noting that courts have the authority to reduce any punitive damage they feel is excessive.
Get Legal Advice
If you or loved one suffered an injury due to the wrongful acts of someone else, talk to a personal injury lawyer to find out if you can hold them legally accountable. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles all types of accident cases, and their lawyers can help you get the compensation you need to move forward. Contact us for a free consultation.