Fiol Law Group|Posted in Personal Injury on January 6, 2021
After an accident in Florida, you can seek damages for your injuries, property damage, and related losses. Damages refer to financial compensation, typically from the person or party who caused the accident. Some states, including Florida, impose damage caps on personal injury claims. These caps limit how much compensation is available to the injured person.
What Are Damage Caps?
Damage caps are laws that place a maximum on the amount of financial compensation available for an accident victim’s losses. Once an award reaches this cap, the victim cannot recover any further compensation, even if a jury awarded an amount that exceeds the state’s cap.
The purpose of a damage cap is to discourage frivolous or fraudulent personal injury claims. Limiting the number of damages available may dissuade someone from bringing a claim solely to pursue a large award.
Damage caps can also protect a community by limiting an entity’s financial liability, such as the government or a health care center. For this reason, damage caps in different states are most common in medical malpractice claims.
They are also common in tort claims against the government. A damage cap can prevent important entities from going bankrupt for having to pay an extremely large settlement or judgment award. Although many states have gotten rid of damage caps after voting them unconstitutional, Florida still uses this law to limit some types of damages.
Economic damages represent the victim’s direct financial losses from an accident, such as medical bills, property repairs, losses of income, attorney’s fees, travel expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs.
An economic damage award seeks to make a victim whole again by restoring him or her to the financial state he or she enjoyed prior to the accident. Florida does not place any caps on economic damages, allowing a plaintiff to recover the full value of his or her monetized losses.
Noneconomic damages are the opposite of economic damages. Rather than referring to the tangible monetary losses connected to an accident, non-economic damages refer to the personal side of a personal injury claim.
They describe losses such as physical pain and suffering, emotional pain, mental anguish, psychological distress, trauma, inconvenience, humiliation, lost quality of life, and loss of consortium.
Many states place caps on noneconomic damages in personal injury claims. These caps limit how much a victim can receive in pain and suffering damages from a jury – an award that could be significant for severe or permanent injuries.
Although Florida used to have a cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice claims, as of 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ruled this cap unconstitutional and unfair for victims. Thus, although state law still includes a cap, Florida currently does not cap noneconomic damages in practice on any type of case.
The only damage cap in place in a Florida personal injury claim is one on punitive damages. Punitive damages represent an award given to a plaintiff as a means of punishing a defendant. A judge in Florida may award punitive damages if the defendant is guilty of gross negligence, extreme recklessness, a wanton disregard for the safety of others, or malicious intent to harm. In Florida, a damage cap can limit how much a plaintiff receives in this type of award.
Florida law limits punitive damages to no more than three times the total amount of compensatory damages (economic and noneconomic) awarded to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff receives $100,000 in compensatory damages, for example, he or she could not receive more than $300,000 in punitive damages. This is more of a guideline than a strict law in Florida, however. It is ultimately up to a judge and jury to determine how much a plaintiff receives in damages after a serious accident.