A punitive damage claim is an additional damage that can be recovered in a personal injury claim if the necessary elements can be proven. Punitive damages may be awarded in a civil lawsuit if the defendant’s conduct is proven to be intentional or grossly negligent. The plaintiff must present clear and convincing evidence that the defendant knew the conduct’s wrongfulness and had a reckless disregard for others’ safety. Punitive damages are also called exemplary damages. They are designed to punish and deter future negligence by the defendant or others.
A high-profile case of punitive damages in a civil lawsuit occurred in 1992 when plaintiff Stella Liebeck filed a lawsuit against the McDonald’s Corporation. She acquired second and third-degree burns from a cup of McDonald’s coffee that spilled on her lap. The discovery phase of the lawsuit revealed that McDonald’s had over 700 claims filed in the ten years before Stella Liebeck’s injuries, and for the same reason. The court found the McDonald’s Corporation grossly negligent and was ordered to lower their coffees’ temperature. The plaintiff was awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages and 2.7 million dollars in punitive damages.
In the State of Florida, punitive damage awards can not exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or five hundred thousand dollars. In extreme cases of highly egregious behavior based on financial gain, punitive damages may be awarded, not to exceed four times the amount of compensatory damages or two million dollars.
Some examples of claims for punitive damages are:
- Plaintiffs in motor vehicle accidents may be awarded punitive damages for the defendant’s actions, such as road rage or driving under the influence, especially in cases with fatalities.
- An employer that consistently violates the Occupational Safety Health Administration’s safety standards, resulting in an employee’s wrongful death, may be liable for punitive damages.
- Medical malpractice claims with punitive damages can be filed against healthcare institutions and healthcare professionals for gross negligence in care. For instance, providing substandard care to a patient to ensure they return for additional procedures for the doctor’s financial gain may constitute punitive damages.
- Premises liability claims can include punitive damages if a property owner has been sued for repeated accidents on his land and fails to correct the issue.
Contact the King Law Firm after an Accident, Injury, or Fatality of a Loved One.
Although punitive damages are rarely awarded for personal injury claims, they can be pursued under certain circumstances. At King Law Firm, we understand the criteria to file for compensatory and punitive damages for personal injuries. Our law firm has proven strategies to maximize our clients’ recovery for the injuries they have suffered. We know how devastating it can be to deal with injuries’ recovery costs and pain due to another’s negligence or recklessness. The King Law Firm can help you navigate the civil legal justice system. By investigating the evidence, we can present the most compelling case possible to the responsible party, an insurance company, or a jury trial.
To make an appointment to speak with a local and well-established personal injury attorney, call the King Law Firm in Ocala, Florida, at 352-639-1715. We are client-focused and can provide legal solutions for all personal injury claims.