When something doesn’t work as expected — such as a business not completing services you paid for or your child’s crib malfunctioning — you may feel defeated, frustrated, and helpless. Can you hold the party accountable? In short, yes. There are many different ways to monetize negligence. Punitive damages are one of the most common. What are they, and how are they determined?
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are not traditionally awarded, but there is one exception. When the breach of contract is also a tort for which punitive damages may be recovered, the punitive damages may be assigned. This includes when the behavior is malicious or willful, such as reckless conduct causing physical harm, deliberate defamation of one’s character, a knowingly unlawful taking of someone’s property, and some kinds of contract breach.
Punitive damages are not fixed by law. Typically, they are determined by a judge and jury. A precedent set by Bistline v Rogers, the purpose of punitive damages is not to further compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant for its wrongful conduct and to deter similar misconduct by it and other actors in the future.
6 Types of Legal Damages
From malpractice to personal injury, there are many different kinds of incidents where damages can occur. Legal damages occur when money is exchanged from one party to another as part of a legal remedy. The most common types of legal damages include:
1. Compensatory Damages
Compensatory damages are paid to directly compensate the non-breaching party for the value of what was not done or performed. For example, if a business promised services and failed to provide those services, it may have to pay compensatory damages if determined by a court of law.
2. Incidental Damages
Incidental damages include expenditures that the non-breaching party incurs in attempting to minimize the loss that flows from the breach. Using the previous example, if a different company was hired to do the services that the breached company didn’t accomplish, the breached company may also accrue incidental damages.
3. Consequential Damages
Consequential damages are incurred by the non-breaching party without action on their part because of the breach. In this scenario, a business may perform the service but their services result in physical damages as a result of the service.
4. Nominal Damages
Nominal damages occur when in the situation of a breach, the non-breaching party has really suffered no loss or cannot prove what his loss is. In this scenario, a business may offer services, but breach the contract of those services. Instead, you use a different business with minimal pricing differences. The difference would be the nominal damages.
5. Liquidated Damages
Sometimes damages are difficult to assess. In these scenarios, a party may decide to set a specific monetary amount. If the sum is reasonable in light of the expected or actual harm, then a court may assign liquidated damages.
6. Punitive Damages
In car accident and personal injury cases, the most common type of damage is punitive damages. Punitive damages are those awarded for the purpose of punishing a defendant in a civil action.
How to Prove Punitive Damages
According to Florida statute 768.72, no claim for punitive damages shall be permitted unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages. This means that there must be evidence to assign punitive damages. What evidence is needed depends highly on the exact situation. For example, if the plaintiff is claiming the defendant was driving under the influence, it would need to be proven that:
- The defendant consumed alcohol knowing he would thereafter operate a vehicle
- The defendant didn’t make adequate plans to get home after consuming alcohol
- The blood alcohol content report shows the defendant’s BAC was above the legal limit
- The police report shows that the defendant was under the influence at the time of the incident
How an Attorney Can Help
Since the amount received in punitive damages may vary, it’s important that you hire an experienced accident attorney to review your case and gather evidence to obtain the best outcome possible. This includes finding evidence during a phase called discovery. Your attorney will obtain any applicable video footage, witness testimony, and expert testimony to plead your case for negligence. And, they’ll be able to do so in a timely manner, since some evidence — such as video footage — can be destroyed after a set amount of time.
How the Expert Lawyers at Clark Law Can Help
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, call the expert Clark Law legal team at (855) 680-4911. You can also schedule a free consultation. The highly experienced and skilled attorneys understand the laws and complexities of personal injury law, including punitive damages, and we know how to fully protect your legal rights.