Compensatory Damages in Florida: What To Know

There are always going to be accidents. Any accident can destroy your life forever, whether it’s from a car accident or a slip and fall injury. Therefore, in some cases, a victim may be compensated and damages are awarded to a plaintiff. Generally, when we say damages in the legal context, we mean compensatory damages and punitive damages for all the varieties of personal injury that are possible: pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses for medical care, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life; and any other type of expenses you might be awarded for the injuries suffered by the victim.

In all damages, the court compensates the injured and attempts to restore them to their prior lives as much as possible. These are the compensatory damages awarded in personal injury cases. Our personal injury attorneys in Florida are well-respected for their success in obtaining compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. Below, we’ll look at compensatory damages more specifically. You can contact us at any time to speak with a lawyer about what compensation may be awarded to a plaintiff after an accident.

Injured woman tries to determine compensatory damages she's entitled to

Legal Definition of Compensatory Damages in Florida

Damages for personal injury are typically called “compensatory damages”, meaning that they are intended to compensate injured plaintiffs for what they have lost as a result of the accident or injury. From a monetary perspective, compensatory damages are meant to make the injured plaintiff “whole” again. The idea is to quantify all the consequences of an accident into a dollar amount. Property damage and medical bills are some examples of compensatory damages that are relatively easy to calculate. Putting a monetary value on “pain and suffering” or an inability to enjoy hobbies due to limitations caused by lingering accidents is more difficult. These type of damages are often referred to as “Non-Economic” damages.

The following is a list of some common types of compensatory damages that may be awarded in personal injury cases:

Income

If you have lost your salary and wages as a result of the accident, you may be entitled to compensation. This includes not only income you have already lost, but also the money you would have made if the accident had not happened. The loss of earning capacity of an accident victim is often referred to in personal injury legalese as “damage award based on future income.”

Pain and Suffering

If you suffered pain and serious harm during the accident or in its aftermath as well as ongoing pain, you may be entitled to compensation.

Loss of Enjoyment

These damages may apply when your injuries prevent you from engaging in day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities.

Medical Treatment

You are almost always entitled to monetary compensation for the costs of medical care associated with your accident, including reimbursement for the treatment you have already received as well as compensation for anticipated future medical costs.

Property Loss

If your vehicle, clothing, or other property were damaged in the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the repairs or compensation for the fair market value.

Emotional Distress

The purpose of emotional distress damages is to compensate the victim for the psychological impact of their injuries, including fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. Emotional distress damages are usually associated with more serious accidents. There are some states that consider emotional distress as part of “pain and suffering” damages.

Loss of Consortium

A claim for “loss of consortium” damages typically refers to the consequences the accident has on the plaintiff’s relationship with their spouse — the loss of companionship or the inability to continue a sexual relationship, for instance. Several states also look at the separate impact on a parent-child relationship when a parent is injured. A family member may be awarded loss of consortium damages instead of the injured plaintiff in some cases.

Despite the fact that non-economic damages (loss of enjoyment, emotional distress, loss of consortium, pain and suffering) don’t have receipts or bills that can prove their dollar amount, their monetary value certainly exists. Your non-economic damages will be calculated based on the total amount of economic damages.

Compensatory Damages Compared to Punitive Damages

Compensatory damages differ from punitive damages, which may compensate over and above any loss or damage incurred and are meant to provide an incentive against repeating the act that caused the plaintiff’s loss or damages. There is substantial debate in the field of health insurance about compensatory and punitive damages, with supporters of legal reform claiming that excessive damages, above what is actually incurred, can increase the cost of care across the board. In a lawsuit, compensatory damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the loss the defendant caused.

The award of punitive damages is less common than compensatory damages. Most often, they are used to punish the guilty party for exhibiting gross negligence or participating in illegal activities that caused an accident. Driving under the influence would be an example of this type of behavior. Punitive damages are intended to deter others from engaging in similar conduct if the defendant is required to pay them. Criminal charges can also be filed against the guilty party if their actions were illegal.

How Are Compensatory Damages Calculated in a Personal Injury Case?

After an accident, the calculation of compensatory damages award for a plaintiff is simpler than that of a punitive damage award. The amount awarded is typically determined by the extent of the plaintiff’s injury. Compensation for special damages (special compensatory damages) as well as compensation for general damages is included. For the plaintiff’s tangible and intangible injuries, the defendant will be liable. For this reason, the injured should total their expenses with their lawyer or attorney to arrive at the first figure. This second number can then be calculated by multiplying your tangible losses by two or three for intangible harm. Finally, add both figures together.

Evidence Required to Establish Compensatory Damages in Pinellas

One imagines that two parties engage in a simple dispute, they go through one trial, a jury or judge decides the issue, and then a decision is made. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In lawsuits involving various types of damages, for example, court procedures may vary.

The Florida district court of appeal had to consider this issue in a recent decision. In this case, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when the defendant rear-ended him. A lawsuit was filed against the defendant following the accident. As a result of the defendant’s intoxication, the plaintiff also sued for punitive damages. As agreed between the parties before trial, punitive damages would also be awarded in the event that the plaintiff receives compensatory damages. It is irrelevant to the determination of compensatory damages whether the defendant was intoxicated or not; this evidence was presented by the plaintiff during the trial. In the trial following the plaintiff’s claim, a jury awarded him substantial compensatory and punitive damages.

It was argued by the defendant that the lower court should not have permitted evidence of intoxication to be introduced by the plaintiff during the trial, and the court agreed and found in favor of the defendant. Due to an agreement that the parties had made before trial, punitive damages would only be available to the plaintiff if compensatory damages were paid first, the court instructed the jury not to take intoxication into account when calculating compensatory damages. This led to the jury taking into account evidence of intoxication when awarding compensatory damages, thus resulting in a higher award.

When both compensatory and punitive damages are at issue in a case or a judge’s ability to divide a trial into two parts to decide separate issues, is appropriate in Pinellas. A defendant who was intoxicated, as in this case, was only entitled to punitive damages, but the plaintiff could only be awarded these damages if he was awarded compensatory damages first. According to the defendant, the jury was unfairly influenced by the introduction of this evidence, and it should have been saved for a separate trial stage.

Therefore, in Florida, for cases like this, the proper procedure is to have the jury hear only evidence regarding liability for actual damages in the first phase and then hear evidence regarding punitive damages in the second phase. As a result of a single-phase system, defendants would be prejudiced during the proceedings.

How an Experienced Civil Trial Attorney Impacts Your Compensation if a Lawsuit is Filed

Experienced personal injury attorneys can make a huge difference in the outcome of a legal case, especially in cases that have long-lasting consequences, such as car accidents or motorcycle accidents. The insurance company knows that when an accident victim represents himself, he or she has limited resources, know-how, and an understanding of the true value of the case. Deliberately delaying settlements and offering lower amounts than they would have done with an attorney are common practices.

A 1999 study conducted by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) showed that people who hired attorneys received settlement offers 3.5 times (i.e. 350%) higher than those who handled their cases on their own. Those whose lawyers were well trained and experienced received the highest settlement offers. When handling your case, experienced attorneys will draw on this prior experience. Their process for handling every stage of a personal injury claim is streamlined and efficient. They also have a great deal of data to draw from when evaluating and estimating the worth of your claim. Therefore, they can help you better understand what the insurer is offering.

The Compensatory Damage Collection Process in Florida

Once a settlement or a court judgment/award has been reached in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff becomes entitled to damages. It is very different from receiving the damages award and actually collecting the funds.

There may or may not be a way for defendants to satisfy a damages award in full and they may not be willing to pay it at all. With the assistance of a plaintiff’s attorney, undeclared assets can be discovered, liens can be placed on property, and wages can be garnished. It is also a motivating factor for defendants who owe damages to know that interest is accrued until the damages are paid in full. Usually, the insurance company will pay a valid damages award or settlement without hassle if the defendant responsible for paying damages has liability insurance.

If You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer in Pinellas, Call Herman & Wells

Are you seeking compensation after a recent accident? Contact Herman & Wells for a free legal consultation. You can call (727) 821-3195 or use our online form to let us know you’d like to be contacted by our legal team. Once you’re connected with one of our personal injury lawyers, you’ll have the chance to discuss the facts of your claim and learn how much compensation you might be entitled to.

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